NCAA Football: Purdue at Northwestern

Northwestern completed an unlikely journey to bowl eligibility Saturday with an 23-15 win over Purdue as the Wildcats improved to 6-5 while completing the most dramatic turnaround in college football amid adverse circumstances. Some oddsmakers placed Northwestern's preseason win total number as low as 2.5 as the Wildcats dealt with a hazing scandal that resulted in the July firing of Pat Fitzgerald, who is the program's all-time winningest coach.

But with a first-time head coach in David Braun, who had never worked at an FBS program, the Wildcats will be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2020. Braun, who was promoted to full-time head coach earlier this week, elevated Northwestern's defense and flipped the fortunes of a team that finished 1-11 last season.

That defensive prowess was on display against the Boilermakers, who didn't score until late in the third quarter as the Wildcats repeatedly came up with key turnovers and big stops. The offense did its part with touchdowns of 52 and 34 yards in the second half after the Boilermakers drew within 9-7 in the third quarter. 

During its first 10 games, Northwestern alternated between losses and wins. But Saturday's win, coupled with last week's victory against Wisconsin, made the Wildcats back-to-back winners for the first time since 2020.

Braun was already the first Northwestern coach since 1903 to win five games in his debut season and had the Wildcats tied with South Florida for the largest win improvement in the nation. But with the Bulls' loss to UTSA on Friday night and the Wildcats' win over Purdue, it's Northwestern that now holds the title for biggest turnaround of 2023 entering the final week of the regular season.