Is this the year?

For all that Pat Fitzgerald has gotten done as the head coach at Northwestern, there’s one thing he has only accomplished as a player at his alma mater—win a league championship.

Nobody’s going to predict that this fall. Wisconsin is the dominant power in the Big Ten West until proven otherwise. Nebraska and Iowa, the other West teams that have appeared in the Big Ten title game, are the perennial lurkers.

But under-the-radar Northwestern has all the ingredients to give Fitz the division flag he hasn’t hoisted as a coach, and with it a shot at the Big Ten championship, an accomplishment he enjoyed as a player in 1995 and ’96.

NU’s first two Big Ten games could tell the tale. The key dates on the schedule shape up as the Wildcats’ Sept. 30 trip to Wisconsin for their Big Ten opener, followed by Penn State’s trip to Evanston on Oct. 7. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.