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Wisconsin Vs. Northwestern score, takeaways: Nr. 19 Wildcats take control of Big Ten West over No. 10 Badgers

Nr. 19 Northwestern took a big step forward during the Big Ten Championship game by beating No. 10 Wisconsin 17-7 at home Saturday. As the result suggests, this was a classic Big Ten grind of a game. The Wildcats did not turn it on by offense by having an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Games, but they did not need it. Their defense is what wins games and what defensive effort they put up.

Wisconsin had 17 drives in 60 minutes. Only one finished in points and it was a six-play, 80-yard drive of a Northwest turnover on the finish line. Otherwise, no drive went more than 42 yards. The Northwestern defense forced four three-and-outs and had five takeaways ̵

1; three of those turnovers were tapping quarterback Graham Mertz. Mertz has been excellent in his first two games, but so much novice out on the road against the Wildcats’ experienced group. The four revenue from the first half of Wisconsin were most of the program since 2004, while the five revenue overall was most for the program under coach Paul Chryst for five years.

This also marked the fourth time this year that Northwestern’s defense closed the opposing offense in the second half. This defense is legitimate, and at 5-0, Pat Fitzgerald’s team is in the driver’s seat to lead Indianapolis to the Big Ten Championship, where it is likely to face Ohio State. With just three games left against Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois, Northwestern could be crowned Big Ten West champions for the second time in three years at this pace.

What did we learn about the Badgers and Wildcats?

Northwestern is (gulp) a CFP candidate

Say it with me and say it with emotion … “Northwestern is looking for a College Football Playoff berth.”

Do it again now.

Once again with feeling.

It seems insane that such a statement can be true. But it’s 2020. Down is up and forward is backward, so it only makes sense that the Wildcats are CFP providers.

See the rest of their schedule. They play in Michigan State and in Minnesota before ending the regular season at home vs. Illinois. Do some of these games stand out as likely losses? Nix. Not with the way the Northwest plays defense.

Can Northwestern actually produce the Common Fisheries Policy? Probably not. After all, offense is what matters most in college football, and it’s unlikely to keep up with Ohio State or Indiana in a Big Ten Championship game. But they will likely walk into Lucas Oil Stadium 60 minutes away from honor.

Brandon Joseph is a star

If you do not know his name, you must know it. Joseph is the driving force behind a Wildcats defense that has established itself as one of the best in the country.

The novice from College Station, Texas, had two picks a night and has five on the season. He is just the third big ten player in the last 15 years with five or more interceptions during the team’s first five games of the season. Not a bad start to his career to say the least.

However, it goes beyond that. Now that wildcats have tracked down to the Big Ten Championship game and are all in the national title hunt, they will have to rely on their budding superstar more and more as they enter the stretch race. He got his first taste of the big stage on Saturday and came up big. That’s a good sign for the future of the Wildcats in 2020 and beyond.

Time to slow down the Mertz hype

The Badgers’ redshirt-novice quarterback was the talk of the Big Ten early in the season, but he came big down to Earth against the Northwestern. Mertz was clearly confused by what the wildcats threw at him, forcing him to make some inexplicable mistakes – including his second interception of the game. This choice came late in the second quarter with his team run as Joseph stepped in front of a pass to set up a seven-player scoring drive from Northwestern.

The pressure did not end there. Down seven on the 23-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Mertz was fired by a flashy Cameron Ruiz at fourth-and-6 to finish the Badgers’ best scoring chance of the second half. He had a receiver on a hot route available, but got happy feet and took a sack that he just can’t take in that situation.

Mertz deserved the credit he received during the first two games of the season. But he had to have some bad moments. It’s almost as if we forgot that he’s not an experienced veteran based on his play early in the season. This should serve as a learning opportunity as he progresses through his career.

Everything is in order

Peyton Ramsey transferred to Northwestern after Michael Penix Jr. knocked him out of the starting job in Indiana. I would say that all parties are satisfied with the results.

Ramsey was a solid 23-of-44 in 203 yards, two touchdowns and most importantly zero interceptions. He was not a difference-maker, but he did not have to be in this one. He managed this game to perfection, which is a sign of maturity from a veteran quarterback who is fully aware of his limitations and the philosophy of his team.

What about Penix? Oh, it works for him too. All he did before Saturday was lead the Hoosiers into the top 10. No, that did not work against Ohio State. But at least Penix kept it close.

The transfer portal worked for Ramsey and Penix in exactly the way it was supposed to.

CBS Sports was with you all the way and updated this story with the latest from the game. This story will soon be updated with takeaways from Northwestern’s massive Big Ten West victory on Saturday.

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