Northwestern earns highest ranking since 2000 with win over Minnesota

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Northwestern receiver Dan Vitale tries to elude a Minnesota defender in the Wildcats' 27-0 victory over the Gophers on October 3rd.

EVANSTON – To find the last time they were ranked this high, you have to go back 15 years.

That’s not a bad thing for Northwestern football. In fact it might be a good omen.

On Sunday the Wildcats moved up to No. 13 in the Associated Press’ Top 25 college football poll following their 27-0 victory over Minnesota in the Big Ten opener Saturday at Ryan Field.

It’s up three spots from last week and is the highest ranking for the for Northwestern since the 2000 season. They moved up to the No. 12 ranking that year after a November 4th 54-51 victory over Michigan in one of most memorable games in the history of Wildcat football. The slipped in the rankings the next week after an upset loss at Iowa but rebounded for a victory over Illinois to capture a share of their last Big Ten Championship.

Northwestern got as high as 14th the next season before a late season fall off and wouldn’t crack to Top 20 again till early in the 2013 season. The Wildcats were ranked as high as 16th that season but again had a mid-season slump that knocked them from the rankings.

Pat Fitzgerald’s team has earned that ranking with an impressive five-game winning streak to open up the season. Starting with an upset of then-No. 21 Stanford and continuing to Saturday’s shutout win over the Gophers, the Wildcats are an early favorite in a wide open Big Ten West division.

Their biggest challenge awaits next week when they hit the road to face 18th-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor at 2:30 PM on Saturday. The last time the Wildcats won at Michigan Stadium was 2008.

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