No. 8 Northwestern's hopes of making College Football Playoff were already slim entering Saturday, but they're just about nonexistent now. The Wildcats fell to Michigan State 29-20 on Saturday afternoon, falling from the ranks of the unbeaten to 5-1 on the season.
Northwestern got off to a slow start in the game, and it doomed the Wildcats in the end. They drove 41 yards on their opening possession and entered the red zone but turned the ball over on downs rather than attempting a field goal. Michigan State responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Nailor two plays later to take a 7-0 lead.
After a Northwestern turnover on its next possession, Michigan State got a field goal to go up 10-0 and had a 17-6 lead at halftime. The Wildcats battled back in the second half, taking a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Michigan State added two more field goals -- including the go-ahead kick with under 4 minutes to go -- to reclaim the lead. A fumble return touchdown in the game's final second provided the nine-point margin.
The good news for Northwestern is this loss does not eliminate it from Big Ten title contention. The Wildcats still hold first place in the Big Ten West and can reach the conference championship game. The problem now? If Northwestern doesn't face No. 4 Ohio State for the Big Ten title (which became less likely with another Ohio State game being canceled this week), a win over Indiana at the end of the season likely wouldn't be enough to convince the CFP Selection Committee that the Wildcats are one of the four best teams in the country.