As we reach the final weeks of the regular season, most people would assume that Northwestern’s bowl picture would be clearing up, and potential destinations would be reducing in number.
That’s simply not the case, though, especially after a wild weekend across the nation, especially for previously-undefeated teams Michigan, Clemson and Washington. Adding to the complexity is the bunch of teams in the middle of the pack of the conference. After Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, there are six teams sitting at a conference record between 5-2 and 3-4, and five of those come from the West division. Even after taking away Wisconsin (5-2 in the B1G), which is the obvious favorite to win the Big Ten West, there are five teams that Northwestern could reasonably pass, fall behind or end up in the middle of the pack by the regular season ends.
Looking at the West alone, this weekend could hold huge bowl implications. Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa all sit at 4-3 in the conference and 2-2 in the B1G West. But the Gophers (7-3) and Hawkeyes (6-4) both hold a superior overall record than the Wildcats (5-5). That’s why this weekend is so important. Northwestern can surpass Minnesota in the Big Ten and the Big Ten West and gain a game on them in the overall season record mark while also holding head-to-head tiebreakers over both the Gophers and the Hawkeyes (who have a matchup with lowly Illinois this coming weekend but then face Nebraska to end the year).
This weekend will go a long way to determine whether goes to a destination such as the Holiday Bowl or a lower-tier bowl like the Quick Lane Bowl. We’ll explore the possibilities after this coming weekend in much more detail.
Here’s where the experts have NU for the postseason heading into Week 12.
Jason Kirk: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Western Kentucky, Dec. 27 in Dallas, TX
Brian Bennett: New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 28 in New York City, NY
Mark Schlabach: Foster Farms Bowl vs. Colorado, Dec. 28 in Santa Clara, CA
Brett McMurphy: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Western Kentucky, Dec. 27 in Dallas, TX
Jerry Palm: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 28 in New York, NY
Colin Becht: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 28 in New York, NY
Dave Miller: Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State, Dec. 27 in San Diego, CA