The season starts in a week-and-half, meaning almost every major outlet has put out its preseason bowl projections. Today, we at SB Nation put out a beautiful college football preview that included Jason Kirk's bowl projections. Jason had Northwestern playing Florida in the Gator Bowl, which is similar to basically every other national writer who has put the Wildcats in the 5th-7th best bowls.
This year, the bowl order will be different than it has been in the past. Before, bowls could choose whoever they wanted (with a few exceptions), meaning Northwestern was often passed over for teams with bigger fan bases. Now, the Big Ten will have some say, and the selections will be decided in tiers, not necessarily a specific order, to make sure teams go to a variety of locales and not the same one year after year.
Here are the bowls in the tier everyone keeps projecting Northwestern in:
San Francisco Bowl vs. Pac-12
Pinstripe Bowl vs. ACC
Music City Bowl OR Gator Bowl vs. SEC
The ACC and the Big Ten both share tie-ins with the Music City and Gator Bowls with the stipulation that the conferences will each send three teams to each bowl over a six-year span.
Now here's my question to you: If Northwestern ends up in this tier that basically everyone expects them to end up in, which game would you rather they get sent to? Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons:
San Francisco Bowl
Pros: Northwestern was in the Bay Area last year and it had a huge following at the Cal game. There are a lot of NU alums in California, and this game would probably do pretty well from an attendance standpoint. There's also the bonus of playing at the new Levi's Stadium and the fact that the game would be against a Pac-12 team, which could be fun.
Cons: NU played there last year, and I'd imagine there will be a lot of competition of teams vying to play in this one. Particularly, if Nebraska is in this tier, the Huskers will really want this game, given that it will be against a good Pac-12 team (4th-best in the conference) and that they recruit so much in California.
Pros: NU has a ton of alums in New York. Hell, our site gets more readers from New York than from Evanston. Also, the game would be played in Yankee Stadium.
Cons: It's not warm and it costs a lot to stay there. Also, no offense to the ACC, but playing a mid-level Pac-12 or SEC team is way more exciting than playing a mid-level ACC team. (Again, sorry Pitt.)
Music City Bowl
Pros: I hear Nashville is really cool, and it's not that far from Chicago, meaning it will be an easy drive for a lot of the fan base. Plus, Big Ten-SEC bowl games are always fun.
Cons: There isn't a lot of national cache surrounding this game, even though it's technically in the same tier as some of the "cooler" games. Also, while Nashville is supposedly awesome, there's no beach.
Pros: It's in Florida, NU has a history there, since it got its first bowl win since 1949 at the 2013 Gator Bowl. And there's the SEC thing again.
Cons: Jacksonville isn't super fun and NU was just there. The new system tries to switch up locations, so I'd assume they'll avoid this one if they can.
So what's your pick, assuming the Wildcats end up in the tier everyone thinks they will? Mine would be the San Francisco Bowl, though I'm guessing the best team in the tier will get that one this season, so it might mean beating Nebraska and/or Iowa/Michigan/Wisconsin (the Big Ten is a crapshoot) to do it. But regardless, I'll be California dreaming this season — either for the Rose Bowl or the more realistic choice up the coast.