For most programs getting 4 votes in the AP Poll would be a total afterthought, or no thought, but for NU I really think this is a big deal. The last time NU got votes was in 1999 when an Evan Eschmeyer led NU team stood at 14-6 (6-4), the Wildcats then lost six in a row (including one at home to cellar-dwelling Illinois) and have not been heard from in the rankings since. So, given that the last time NU got any attention from a poll was almost a decade ago I think today's news is significant. I also think it's significant because it says something about what this 6-1 record means.
At this time of year many teams have good records, but they don't mean anything. These teams have boosted their win total with victories over weak competition. NU, however, is not one of those teams. Yes, Central Arkansas and UC-Riverside aren't powerhouse programs, obviously, but NU's wins over Florida State and DePaul do have meaning. The win over a Florida State looks especially good as the ‘Noles defeated #23 Florida yesterday. I also think the fact NU is #7 in the RPI and FSU is #10 shows the meaningfulness of the win over FSU. The DePaul win is impressive not as much because of DePaul, though at least they are a Big East team, but because of how dominating the win was. Sure, Mac Koshwal didn’t play, but the other guys on the DePaul roster aren’t stiffs. Dar Tucker was a top recruit and the rest of his teammates were good enough to be recruited to play in the Big East. DePaul might be near the bottom of the Big East, but most experts say the Big East is stronger than the Big Ten and NU couldn’t even beat bottom Big Ten teams the last few years. I look at it like this; I believe this year’s DePaul is similar to last season’s Iowa squad. NU played Iowa twice last year and lost two close games. This year NU beat DePaul by 27 points, I think that shows solid improvement.
Now, does beating a bottom Big East team and a pretty good ACC team really equal a ranking? Honestly, I wouldn’t rank NU based just on those wins, but the team has done other impressive things as well. For example, the loss to Butler, as depressing as it was, was a far better performance at Hinkle than OSU last year (lost by 19) and most other teams who face the Bulldogs at home. I would honestly be surprised to see Butler lose more than one game at home this year. Also, Butler is currently sitting #3 in the RPI. In addition, NU’s wins over its lesser opponents are impressive in some ways at well. How so? Well, NU has won each home game by double digits and beat Brown on the road by 9 points. I think domination factor earns NU more respect. When NU wins by double figures against UMKC, that respect should continue to build.