Northwestern football kicks off in less than two weeks, and the Wildcats are slowly gathering hype for the 2017 season. Every online college football outlet projects Northwestern to play in a bowl game this season, an impressive feat in and of itself considering where the program was about 10 years ago. Now the question is what bowl bid Northwestern will accept in 2017. Here’s a rundown of the projections:
SBNation.com - Music City Bowl vs. Texas &M (Jason Kirk)
SB Nation projects Northwestern to have a rematch of the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2017. The Music City Bowl, played in Nashville, Tennessee, features a mid-tier ACC or B1G team against the SEC. In this scenario, Northwestern would finish between fifth and seventh in the Big Ten, probably with 7 or 8 wins. This bowl game would be quite disappointing given preseason hype, but if it happened we’d probably just enjoy the spectacle anyway rather than being terminally bitter, because we’re Northwestern fans and not Tennessee fans.
On the other hand, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly also put Northwestern at No. 23 of his preseason rankings (the “a couple will play at a Top-15 level tier”). Now that sounds way more enticing.
CBS - Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky (Jerry Palm)
Again with the Music City Bowl! This is a reasonable assumption, but I just want to point out that Jerry Palm’s five-year running average for NCAA Tournament accuracy is 82nd. Um, but yeah, the Music City Bowl, totally! Yeah, and Kentucky will totally not disappoint this year, I’m sure of it. Also, I have to mention that the CBS website’s video autoplay is ridiculously annoying. Here at Inside NU, we will not pivot to video unless SB Nation tells us to. They may have already done that, but we might have misplaced the email.
Sporting News - Holiday Bowl vs. Utah (Bill Bender)
I like this matchup and this bowl game. After all, who doesn’t want to go to San Diego. A lot has to go right (and wrong) for Northwestern to make this game. You’d figure Northwestern would need to be at least be 9-3 or 10-2 (with a quality win over Nebraska/Wisconsin/Penn State) to get into the Holiday Bowl, given how deep the Big Ten is. However, they’d also have to lose the Big Ten West in the process and miss out on a New Year’s Six Bowl. This just happened in 2015, so I guess it could happen. I don’t think Northwestern will go back to the Outback Bowl any time soon, for some reason, so the Holiday Bowl seems feasible and fun. Substitute Oregon or Washington State in for Utah for even more fun.
Sports on Earth - Holiday Bowl vs. Oregon (Matt Brown)
Athlon Sports - Holiday Bowl vs. Oregon (Steven Lassan)
Matt Brown and Steven Lasson are also going with the “Northwestern wins 9 games but loses the West” reasoning that Bender went with, just against a different opponent. Northwestern hasn’t played a Pac-12 opponent since the win over Stanford in Week 1 of 2015 (no games scheduled in 2017 either). The Wildcats also haven’t played a bowl game in California since 1996 Rose Bowl. I think a West Coast trip would be a solid consolation prize if Northwestern doesn’t do significant damage in the Big Ten this year.