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Power ranking Northwestern's possible bowl opponents

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It's a near certainty that the Wildcats will meet an SEC team

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, we're pretty certain of Northwestern's bowl destination: either Tampa Bay for the Outback Bowl or Orlando for the Citrus Bowl, with the former being much more likely than the latter. Unless something really odd happens, the Wildcats will just barely miss out on a New Year's Six bowl. Whether you agree with that or not is up to you.

Regardless of whether it's the Outback or the Citrus, the Wildcats are a lock to play an SEC team, with the Citrus getting the first pick of teams, followed by the Outback. According to a very interesting and somewhat hilarious line of tweets from the Citrus Bowl's official Twitter account, they're picking between the Wolverines and the Wildcats. Of course Michigan has the 38-0 shellacking it put on Northwestern in Week 7 to boost its resume, but the Wildcats have one fewer loss and are ranked ahead of Michigan. Both bowls pick a Big Ten school and an SEC school. Hence, there's a somewhat limited number of teams Northwestern would face. Given that, we rank the Wildcats' possible opponents in difficulty, from most difficult to least difficult.

1. Ole Miss

Fortunately for Northwestern, Ole Miss is likely headed to the Sugar Bowl. But that's not yet a guarantee. The Rebels are rolling right now though, and without a crazy 53-52 loss to Arkansas, they would have won the SEC West. Hugh Freeze's team has put up 38 points in each of its past two games, beating LSU two weeks ago and then winning the Egg Bowl over in-state rival Mississippi State last week. The Rebels are also the only team to have beaten Alabama this year, and with a talented bunch of guys out wide, led by Laquon Treadwell, whose 6-foot-2 frame would pose major problems for Northwestern's undersized cornerbacks, Ole Miss would be the least favorable matchup for Northwestern. Also, they have one of the best players and athletes in the nation in Robert Nkemdiche, who will be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

2. Tennessee

This is the contentious one, but oh well. The Volunteers are no joke, and although they have four losses and Florida has just two, the Volunteers have been much better of late. Butch Jones' squad has won five straight, and two of those games have included 50+ points from the Vols. Additionally, Tennessee held leads going into or at some point in the fourth quarter of each of their four losses. Tennessee's S&P+ is fourth of the five teams on this list, but when it comes to power rankings, recency bias reigns supreme, and that's the case here. The Volunteers are on fire right now.

3. Florida

Don't let Florida's 10-2 record fool you-- this team hasn't been the same without Will Grier, who was suspended for the year for taking a banned substance. The Gators' offensive production has been way down -- see just nine points against lowly Vanderbilt and zero points from the offense against Florida State in the regular season finale as prime examples. The Florida defense is outstanding -- fifth in S&P+ standings -- but against Northwestern, you have to score points, and I'm not sure this Florida team can do that.

4. LSU

It's really been a tale of two seasons for LSU. Leonard Fournette was the leader for the Heisman through seven unbelievable games, and the Tigers were 7-0. Then they met Alabama and lost, which was followed by two sluggish losses to Arkansas and Ole Miss. Les Miles seemed to be on his way out of Death Valley. But LSU beat Texas A&M -- not in particularly impressive fashion but they got Fournette back on track -- to finish with nine wins. Outside of the running back, this offense is nothing special. (Read: Northwestern's offense) This team is nowhere near bad, and could probably be higher on this list, but it's trending in the wrong direction.

5. Georgia

Georgia currently doesn't have a head coach, had a quarterback controversy midway through the season, and, although on a four-game winning streak, hasn't looked very impressive during that span. The 'Dawgs would be the most favorable opponent for the Wildcats.