It's been considered No. 4 Notre Dame's biggest test remaining before a possible College Football Playoff berth for awhile now, but when Northwestern plays host to the Fighting Irish on Saturday, there will be plenty at stake for both teams.
The Wildcats, fresh off a win over Wisconsin are the current leaders of the Big Ten West division and could be heading into a chance to play for the conference title in a month despite starting the season 1-3. The Wildcats are excellent underdogs; favorites ... not so much. They thrive in these situations and Notre Dame is the best opponent they'll face this season. Can they pull off the upset and immediately shake up the College Football Playoff standings?
Date: Saturday, Nov. 3 | Time: 7:15 p.m. ET
Location: Ryan Field -- Evanston, Illinois
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
Notre Dame: Does it matter that the undefeated Fighting Irish are No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff Rankings --? Hardly. They're in the field as of today and they'll be in the field a month from now if they keep winning. They're one of the few teams that, in this game of mental gymnastics and inconsistent logic for postseason participation, actually controls its destiny. The only thing that matters is seeding because of matchups.
However, the next month could prove to be Notre Dame's most difficult. This game in particular is ripe for upset alert, but in two weeks the Irish play Syracuse, which, after Clemson, has an argument to be the ACC's second-best team. November is tricky and the first test of this team's mettle down the stretch begins in earnest.
Northwestern: This game won't affect the Big Ten standings one way or the other, but this is a chance for Northwestern to make a major statement. The Wildcats are 0-5 against top-10 teams dating back to 2011 when they last won against then-No. 10 Nebraska 28-25. Pat Fitzgerald's program is typically good enough to notch a win here and there vs. a ranked opponent, but doesn't always have the top-end talent to stay with elite teams.
This team feels different. It's rectified the second-half woes that plagued it earlier in the season and the emergence of running back Isaiah Bowser has at least provided some balance to the offense.
Game prediction, picks
Not only is Northwestern batting 1.000 against the spread as an underdog, it's 3-1 straight up in those games and the only loss was by three to Michigan. (Northwestern was leading in that game, too.) So the trend says take the Wildcats and the points. The real question is whether Fitzgerald's team has enough to pull off a second straight upset. Bowser and the new-look rushing attack may be the difference. Pick: Northwestern +9.5
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