staff, April 21, 2013

The way Northwestern finished the 2012 season, culminating in the program's first bowl win since the 1948 Rose Bowl, coupled with the fact it returns much of its skill position talent, expectations are quite high in Evanston. In fact, some are wondering if the Wildcats – yes, the Wildcats – have what it takes to play for their first Big Ten title since 2000. Do they?'s Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina discuss in this post.

Question: Can Northwestern win the Legends Division?

Tom: Absolutely. Yes, Nebraska should be the favorite to repeat as the Legends champ and get back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. And Michigan will be in the thick of the race, too. We also can?t count out Michigan State, either. But there?s no team in the division that is markedly better than the Wildcats. In fact, this looks like Pat Fitzgerald?s best team yet since taking over his alma mater?s program in 2006. The offense is loaded with skill-position talent. And the defense has more speed, athletic ability and depth than perhaps ever before. Yes, this NU team could be a preseason Top 25 team and the school?s best squad since the 1995 edition that Fitz helped lead to the Rose Bowl. Expectations are soaring in Evanston. I can?t wait for 2013.

[ RELATED: Check out all of's spring football coverage ]

Brent: Northwestern boasts the talent to compete for the Legends Division, but the schedule makers did it no favors. Not only do the Wildcats play everyone in the rugged Legends Division, including a date at Nebraska, they draw the Leaders Division's two top teams, in Big Ten favorite Ohio State (home; first meeting since 2008) and three-time reigning champ Wisconsin (road). Needless to say, that's a tough schedule to navigate. Then again, Northwestern, which returns 15 starters, always seems to be in every game it plays. For me, Kain Colter's improvement as a passer, to the point that he's under center every play, is key to the Wildcats winning the Legends Division. With all respect to Trevor Siemian and his strong wing, this is a team that could go from good to very good if Colter added a feared arm to his dangerous legs. Should that happen, yes, the Wildcats can win their division; if not, the Wildcats will finish below Michigan and Nebraska for the second consecutive season.

Here's the aforementioned Northwestern schedule:

Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. Aug. 31 at California TBA
Sat. Sep. 7 vs. Syracuse TBA
Sat. Sep. 14 vs. Western Michigan TBA
Sat. Sep. 21 vs. Maine TBA
Sat. Oct. 5 vs. 3 Ohio State TBA
Sat. Oct. 12 at Wisconsin TBA
Sat. Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota TBA
Sat. Oct. 26 at Iowa TBA
Sat. Nov. 2 at 25 Nebraska TBA
Sat. Nov. 16 vs. 24 Michigan TBA
Sat. Nov. 23 vs. Michigan State TBA
Sat. Nov. 30 at Illinois TBA