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Updated Northwestern Bowl Possibilities

by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

A new report today from Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel indicated that the Capital One Bowl is likely to take Texas A&M regardless, as did ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy. This makes sense, as the Aggies will have an excited fan base, be in their first year in the SEC and likely have a Heisman Trophy winner. It also changes the bowl picture a little bit. Here are the updated bowl scenarios — predicated on A&M going to the Capital One Bowl — when we look at both the Big Ten and SEC Championship Games. We'll go in order of the most likely scenario (based on the favorites) to the least likely scenario.

If Nebraska and Alabama win the championship games (both are favorites)

Capital One Bowl: This is probably the least chaotic scenario. All signs point to the Capital One Bowl wanting both Texas A&M and Michigan — Denard and Gardner vs. Johnny Football, anyone? — and if Nebraska wins the Big Ten Championship Game, they'll get that. Yes, the Capital One Bowl could take Northwestern over Michigan, but it's not likely, even if NU fans increase their Twitter blitz even more. The pick: Michigan vs. Texas A&M

Outback Bowl: If Nebraska wins the Big Ten Championship Game, Northwestern can't fall below the Outback Bowl because of the two-win rule, so if the Huskers win the Big Ten, a trip to Tampa looks pretty likely. The opponent question isn't that tricky either. Alabama will be in the BCS and A&M will be in the Capital One Bowl, so the Cotton Bowl and the Outback Bowl pick next. The Cotton Bowl will almost certainly take LSU in this case, leaving Georgia or South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Georgia was in Tampa last year, but it's unclear how much of a role that will play in the decision. The pick: Northwestern vs. Georgia or South Carolina

If Wisconsin and Alabama win the championship games (Alabama is a favorite, Wisconsin is an underdog)

Capital One Bowl: In this scenario, Wisconsin would go to the BCS, and because of the two-win rule, only Northwestern and Nebraska would be available to the Capital One Bowl. Initially, Teddy Greenstein reported that the Capital One Bowl would select Northwestern in this situation, but since Northwestern played Texas A&M last year, that throws a little wrinkle into the situation. However, Greenstein tweeted today that there is no hesitancy of a possible rematch, so we'd project NU to end up here. Still, Nebraska is a possibility and we'll run through the other scenarios. The pick: Northwestern or Nebraska vs. Texas A&M.

Outback Bowl: Northwestern could very well be the Capital One Bowl's pick, but for the sake of running through all the scenarios, let's say the Capital One Bowl takes Nebraska. That leaves Northwestern or Michigan, and it looks like the Wolverines would probably have the edge here, just like they likely would in the Capital One Bowl scenario with Nebraska winning the Big Ten. The SEC scenario would stay the same here, with Georgia or South Carolina as the likely pick. The pick: Michigan (with a slight chance for Northwestern) vs. South Carolina or Georgia.

Gator Bowl: If Northwestern were to fall to the Gator Bowl, the Wildcats wouldn't fall any further. Mississippi State or Vanderbilt would be the potential picks here, but since the Gator Bowl wouldn't want a Northwestern-Vanderbilt matchup, Mississippi State looks like the most likely SEC team to be picked here. The pick: Northwestern (or whichever one of the three Big Ten teams falls here) vs. Mississippi State.

If Nebraska and Georgia win the championship games (Nebraska is favored, Georgia is an underdog)

Capital One Bowl: Nothing changes here from our top scenario. The pick: Michigan vs. Texas A&M

Outback Bowl: Nothing changes from our top scenario on the Big Ten side. Northwestern can't fall past here. However, the opponent could change. In this case, Georgia would go to the BCS and A&M to the Capital One Bowl, leaving the Cotton and Outback to have choices of four teams. The Cotton Bowl gets the first choice of SEC West teams and would likely take Alabama or LSU. The Outback Bowl can select an SEC East team or an SEC West team that the Cotton Bowl doesn't want. So here's where that leaves us:

Outback scenario if Cotton takes Alabama: Northwestern vs. South Carolina or LSU

Outback scenario if Cotton takes LSU: Northwestern vs. South Carolina or Alabama

I would guess that the Cotton Bowl takes LSU, because Alabama would be coming off a deflating loss. However, the Crimson Tide wouldn't drop below the Outback Bowl. If Alabama does go to the Cotton Bowl, the Outback has an interesting choice between LSU and South Carolina. Does it stick to tradition and take the SEC East team or go for the Tigers? However, we'd project LSU to the Cotton Bowl in this scenario. The pick: Northwestern vs. Alabama

If Wisconsin and Georgia win the championship games (both underdogs)

Capital One Bowl: This goes back to the Northwestern or Nebraska choice as described above. The pick: Northwestern or Nebraska vs. Texas A&M.

Outback Bowl: If the Capital One Bowl takes Nebraska, this combines the Northwestern/Michigan choice with the SEC mess we described in the scenario above. If the Cotton Bowl takes LSU and Alabama falls to the Outback Bowl, that seems to favor NU a bit because the Outback Bowl might not want a Michigan-Alabama rematch. There are a lot of scenarios here – so many, that it's not even worth making a pick.

Gator Bowl: If Northwestern were to fall to the Gator Bowl, the Wildcats would still likely play Mississippi State in this scenario.

The Overview

Your head hurt? Mine too. Anyways, these are all the possible scenarios. If you look at the most likely championship game outcomes and the Capital One Bowl's apparent preference of Michigan-Texas A&M, the Northwestern's most likely game looks like an Outback Bowl berth against either South Carolina or Georgia — I projected NU-South Carolina in our bowl projections. However, a lot can happen, but this gives you an idea of what Saturday's results will mean.