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Notre Dame-Northwestern clash is beyond big

Notre Dame is 8-0 after a 44-22 defeat of Navy in San Diego. Four more victories, and it’s hello to the College Football Playoff for the first time.

Northwestern, which beat Wisconsin 31-17 in Evanston, is rolling with four consecutive victories and a 5-1 Big Ten record. Whether this is coach Pat Fitzgerald’s best team or not, it has a chance to become his most relevant.

On Saturday at Ryan Field, the Irish and Wildcats will get it on. Which leads me to this: Stick your Bears-Packers in a sack, people. ND-NU is the biggest football game in these parts since long before you could spell ‘‘Trubisky.’’

Come to think of it, I’ve met some of you on Twitter. Are you sure you can spell ‘‘Trubisky’’?

Northwestern put it on Wisconsin. Should anyone really be surprised? (AP/Nam Y. Huh)

On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):

2. The perfect storm: Down goes Wisconsin. Down go fellow Big Ten West rivals Purdue (at Michigan State) and Iowa (at Penn State). Just like that, Northwestern, which entered Week 9 in a clogged race, is the only one of the four with fewer than two conference losses.

And you thought the Wildcats were dead when they started the season 1-3. You thought Fitzgerald and his staff were blowing it.

Wait, sorry, that was me. Not to mention every other schmo with a coffee-stained notepad.

‘‘I don’t care what anyone says about me,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘My job is to develop the football team.’’

In that case, keep up the fine work.

3. But who’s counting? Michigan’s, Michigan State’s and Penn State’s records in their last 13 Big Ten games: 9-4. Ohio State’s and Wisconsin’s: 11-2.

Northwestern’s: 12-1.

You can’t make this stuff up.

RELATED
Notre Dame rolls past Navy for first 8-0 start since 2012
Northwestern downs Wisconsin, off to best Big Ten start in 18 years

4. Extra Sensory Perception Network: According to ESPN, Notre Dame — with Northwestern, Florida State, Syracuse and USC left on its schedule — has a projected regular-season record of 11-1 and only a 32.9 percent chance of winning out.

Yeah, well, I just powwowed with my Magic 8-Ball. The Irish are beating everybody until they run into Alabama or Clemson.

5. Maryland 63, Illinois 33: Don’t ask.

6. OK, fine: Lovie Smith’s vaunted defense allowed 712 yards to the Terrapins. The Illini have given up 158 points in their last three games. Hope and prayer are all that’s left, and hope just faked out a half-dozen would-be Illini tacklers on its way out of the building.

Look, I told you not to ask.

7. NIU, that’s who: There’s something enormously cool about Northern Illinois winning 7-6 at BYU. Who wins 7-6 anymore? Who do these guys think they are, the Red Sox?

The Huskies grinded through a brutal nonconference slate and are 5-3 overall and pretty much running things in the Mid-American Conference. Impressive.

8. Basketball joke: Kentucky is 7-1 and tied for first place in the SEC East after beating Missouri 15-14 on a touchdown catch by senior C.J. Conrad on the final play of the game. Which begs the question: Who knew there were seniors at John Calipari’s school?

9. Kansas 27, TCU 26: The Jayhawks broke a 38-game October losing streak. For their next trick, will they win a second conference game for the first time in 10 years? Yes, you read that right. Even Illinois has to shake its head at Kansas’ 6-78 Big 12 record during that span.

10. Just sayin’: Michigan is fifth in the new AP Top 25. Ohio State is eighth. Penn State is 14th. Iowa is 19th.

Northwestern? Ninth in ‘‘others receiving votes.’’

Sure. Makes all the sense in the world.