WATCH: Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald tells his players of division title crown after win over Iowa


Northwestern beat No. 21 Iowa 14-10 on Saturday in Iowa City, clinching the Big Ten West. Northwestern players didn't know this, however, because clinching the division wasn't as simple as winning against the Hawkeyes. After Wisconsin lost to Penn State earlier in the day, the Wildcats knew that they'd clinch if they beat Iowa, but they also needed Purdue to lose to Minnesota.

Which, surprisingly, Purdue did, getting crushed 41-10. But that game was played while Northwestern was still playing, so as his team celebrated its win on the field, coach Pat Fitzgerald gathered his players at midfield to share some breaking news.

The path to Northwestern's first division crown in school history was not routine, as it's been a strange season for the Wildcats. They opened the season with a 31-27 win over Purdue, but followed it up with three straight losses to Duke, Akron and Michigan. The Akron loss was the strangest of them all, as Zips got two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull off a stunning 39-34 upset.

The Wildcats also lost running back Jeremy Larkin, who retired from football due to a diagnosis of cervical stenosis. Entering Saturday's game against Iowa, he remained the team's leading rusher on the season despite not playing since the Akron game.

Still, as strange as things have been, that loss to Michigan is the only Big Ten loss the Wildcats have suffered (their fourth loss was to Notre Dame) so far. They've also been rather dramatic, as none of their six wins this season have come by more than 14 points, and four of them have been by a touchdown or less.

In a season in which Northwestern's made an art form of winning ugly, it used the same formula to win its division.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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