Hungry Wildcats have focus in right place

Throughout the week's media sessions, Northwestern players and coaches spoke of winning the week, not winning the Legends Division. Hidden behind rhetoric and clichés, the Wildcats are hungry and motivated.

The rhetoric sounded like a broken record, repeated over and over again.

"We're just trying to go 1-and-0 this week," Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian said; "We need to focus on being 0-and-0 and starting over," junior linebacker Damien Proby stated; "Every week is a championship game," head coach Pat Fitzgerald explained.

To fans and the media, the clichés offer little importance. Inside the Northwestern locker room, though, the words speak much meaning.

"You've got to prepare each week," said senior linebacker David Nwabuisi, who has been part of three 4-0 starts in his Northwestern career. "It could be your last [game as an undefeated team]. Every game matters."

Northwestern's conference-opener with Indiana is far from a championship-type game. The Hoosiers are in a rebuilding phase under second-year head coach Kevin Wilson. It has been billed as a game the confident Wildcats should win handily.

But that's where the focus is needed. It prevents a coach's nightmare -- a team beating itself. That should not be a concern for Fitzgerald and the Northwestern staff.

Entering Big Ten play, with an unblemished record under their belts, the Wildcats are hungry. The door is open for a great opportunity -- a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. The conference is down this year, as made evident by its 13 losses in a weak nonconference schedule.

The Wildcats know it, even without admitting it to the media.

The chips on the Wildcats' shoulders are evident. They underachieved in 2011, leading to a disappointing 6-7 record. Entering this season, nobody was touting Northwestern as a Big Ten contender, or even giving it a chance.

Even after earning victories over three major-conference opponents, NU found itself outside the Top 25 in both the AP and coaches poll entering week five. The Wildcats would not admit it, but they were disrespected.

Add some more fuel to the fire.

Behind the gentle rhetoric and clichés is motivation, and a lot of it. The Wildcats aren't responding with words and anger, but rather using it as motivation for each game, practice, and rep.

Northwestern can have a special season ahead, but one slip will by costly. It's one at a time for the Wildcats, and their focus isn't anywhere else.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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