EVANSTON – After a season which began with their starting quarterback on a play count after returning from injury, three-straight losses, then seven-straight Big Ten wins, not much is going to bother the Wildcats.
Over the course of three months, Northwestern has shown a healthy amount of resolve and thick skin in a successful 2018 season. Not much bothered them, and because of it, they’re going to make some school history on Saturday.
So what if they’re going into the Big Ten Championship as a heavy underdog against Ohio State – who just dismantled Michigan to end the regular season? If anything, these West Division champions kinda enjoy the lack of faith.
“I love it,” said junior superback Cameron Green. “It’s kinda awesome having people not really like you or think that you’re going to win a game because it just feels so much better when you prove them wrong.”
Certainly Green and his teammates will get that chance on Saturday when they hit the field with the Buckeyes at Lucas Oil Stadium for the outright conference championship. If they can pull the upset of 11-1 Ohio State, they’re headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1995 season, and a transformative year for the program will grow even more historic.
“It’s the biggest game of most of our careers, This is the first time as a program has ever been in the Big Ten Championship game. If we came in as the favorite or the underdog, I feel like we’d prepare the same way,” said senior safety Jared McGee. “I think we know what kinda team Ohio State is and we know the challenges ahead of us.
“I think we do a good job of preparing the same way, whether we’re playing Illinois or ‘Bama, we’re going to prepare the same way. I don’t think it will be too big of a challenge, but it will help us come in with a chip on our shoulders.”
There will be plenty of chances for Northwestern to build those chips as the odds for the game continue to come in. Bovada of Las Vegas has Ohio State as a 14.5 point favorite while OddShark.com has the Buckeyes a 14-even.
Don’t expect that lack of faith to bother Fitzgerald, who will take part in arguably the biggest game of his 13-year tenure at his Alma Mater. He knows few are going to place their bets on his Wildcats – even those closest to him – but the coach only wants his players to go all in.
“I don’t think anybody outside of these doors would pick us to win this game. My mom and dad I guess would. I don’t even know if my sisters will, so we’ll see,” said Fitzgerald. “I don’t need them. I just need the 74 guys that are going to put on purple and white on Saturday.
“You respect the opportunity by the way that you prepare and you respect the opportunity by the way you play, you respect your opponent the same way. I suspect our guys will prepare like it’s a one-game playoff to go to the Rose Bowl. If that doesn’t motivate you, I’m not sure what does.”
Expect the dreams of Pasadena to get his Wildcats fired up more than some odds doubting their chances for victory on Saturday.