The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday evening by the CFP committee. While most of the attention was placed on the top four teams, those in Evanston are much happier with the back end of the rankings.
After a surprise start to the season the Northwestern Wildcats came in as the No. 21 team in the country.
The Wildcats raced out to a 5-0 start, including upset wins over Stanford and Duke. Northwestern then dropped a pair of ugly games against Michigan and Iowa before recovering to beat Nebraska on the road.
Any hopes of reaching the Big Ten title game are now a longshot, behind both Iowa and Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. Northwestern has yet to play Wisconsin, but would need at least one loss from Iowa to have a chance.
Northwestern gets back on the field Saturday in Evanston against Penn State.
All told, the Big Ten has five teams in the CFP rankings. Ohio State headlines the group, currently in the top four at No. 3, followed by Michigan State at No. 7, No. 9 Iowa and No. 17 Michigan.