Regardless of the situation, the Wildcats haven't been able to close out games down the stretch.
"When you beat yourself, you have no chance of winning football games, and that's what we've done the last three weeks," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said during this week's Big Ten coach's teleconference. "We've given them every opportunity to beat us. That's on us."
The Wildcats are hoping that problem doesn't follow them this weekend as Northwestern (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten) travels to Iowa on Saturday, hoping to earn its first conference win of the season.
The trend goes back as far as last season, when notable second-half surges by Penn State and Michigan turned into losses. These have resurfaced this season, showing up in the first loss to Ohio State and even during their attempted rally against Minnesota.
Disturbing as the slips may be to Wildcats fans, Fitzgerald remains adamant that the team is, and has been, trying to right its wrongs every day in practice.
If the Wildcats hope to snag that victory against Iowa, it won't be easy. Here are a few things to watch.
A Healthy Kain
Kain Colter will return
Northwestern's offense is need of a reboot. Falling behind early in the past two games, the Wildcats have forgotten their strength — the option running game — in trying to string together late-game comebacks.
Having a healthy Colter back this week will give the Wildcats a chance to return to the explosive rushing offense most expected this season. Just how effective he'll be on that ankle, though, is something to look out for.
It's difficult to gauge just how ineffective the Wildcats offense has been when taking into account the fact that they've been playing without their two biggest playmakers for much of the season.
Running back Venric Mark will remain on the sidelines against Iowa, but (a healthy) Colter heading the option could be just what this team needs right now.
Jake Rudock vs. Northwestern defense
Rudock didn't have a tough time moving the ball early on the Ohio State defense last weekend. The Hawkeyes' first three drives produced two touchdowns and a field goal.
"We're just pleased with the way he's coming along and the way he's leading our time," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said during the teleconference. "He continues to show a lot of poise, a lot of control, and plays well with his demeanor."
Rudock has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,447 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. He appears to be one of the better quarterbacks the Wildcats will see, and although Northwestern's defense is slowly giving up fewer and fewer explosive plays, Rudock has the arm to remind everyone of the team's early season secondary woes.
New Kid on Campus
Watching Freshman of the Week Desmond King
True freshman cornerback Desmond King became the first Hawkeye to earn Big Ten Freshman of Week honors after posting 12 tackles against Ohio State.
King earned the job after taking over for Jordan Lomax, who was bothered with a hamstring injury to start the season. He came on following the injury in August and now ranks second among freshmen in the Big Ten in tackles.
"It's a tough position to play, especially for a younger payer," Ferentz said. "But Desmond has responded well, we're very, very proud of him and really glad he's on our team."
Even if tackles don't speak directly to his coverage skills, quarterback Trevor Siemian has had a problem keeping the ball out of the other team's hands in recent weeks. So, it'll be interesting to see — if or when Northwestern starts throwing — how the Wildcats will handle the young corner.