Pat Fitzgerald has molded Northwestern into a perennial bowl team.
The Wildcats have reached the postseason for the past four seasons and won their last three bowl games. Northwestern hopes to build upon last season’s impressive Big Ten Championship appearance and Holiday Bowl victory by going even further this year. The bowl experts, however, are not expecting that. Here is where the analysts project Northwestern to be playing during winter break:
The Athletic - Quick Lane Bowl vs Western Michigan (Stewart Mandel)
The Quick Lane Bowl is not a prestigious New Year’s Bowl game (the game is played on December 26th) and would likely mean that NU disappointed a bit, winning only five or six regular season games*. The bowl takes place in Detroit and pits a B1G team against a MAC or ACC team. When Northwestern played Western Michigan in 2016, the Broncos defeated them 22-21 in the season opener. Last season, Minnesota trounced Georgia Tech 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl. Mandel is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, but isn’t giving the Wildcats much love in 2019.
*With one of the highest APR’s (Academic Progress Report) in the nation, NU can win five regular season games and still potentially make a bowl game if there are not enough six win teams to fill all of the bowl games.
CBS - Quick Lane Bowl vs Miami (OH) (Jerry Palm)
Yikes, another Quick Lane Bowl projection for the Wildcats. Last season, Miami (Ohio) finished 6-6 and the team was not invited to a bowl game. The two teams last played in 2009 when Northwestern won 16-6. Analysts just seem to love the prospect of Northwestern facing off against MAC opponents.
Athlon Sports- Quick Lane Bowl vs Wake Forest (Steven Lassan)
Yet again the Quick Lane Bowl! PLEASE ANYWHERE BUT DETROIT! This time, the projection has the Wildcats going up against an ACC opponent, but it would still be a disappointment if NU ends up in the Motor City. Similar to Northwestern, Wake Forest is one of the smallest (and smartest) schools within the Power Five.
Sporting News - SERVPRO First Responders Bowl vs Texas Tech (Bill Bender)
Finally, a different projection for the Wildcats. Previously, this bowl game has been called the “Heart of Dallas Bowl” and the “TicketCity Bowl”. Northwestern would play in the actual Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas in what essentially amounts to a road game against Texas Tech. Does this matchup sounds familiar? The Wildcats actually played the Red Raiders in the TicketCity Bowl in 2011, falling 45-38. The First Responders Bowl is scheduled for December 30th.
247Sports - Redbox Bowl vs Washington State (Brad Crawford)
It isn’t Pasadena, but NU could get another Pac-12 team in California! In this matchup, Northwestern would face a team in the Cougars that is ranked No. 23 in the preseason AP poll. This would be an intriguing matchup for the Wildcats as Mike Leach’s Air Raid philosophy makes WSU both a competitive team and an entertaining opponent. Crawford’s projection would allow Northwestern to both start and finish their season in the Bay Area. The Redox Bowl is scheduled for December 30th.
SBNation (Banner Society) - Armed Forces Bowl vs Air Force (Jason Kirk)
Lastly, the mothership has the Wildcats going to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to take on the Air Force Falcons in the Armed Forces Bowl. If this projection is right, Northwestern would actually become the first-ever Big Ten program to play in the bowl game, even though the conference established an agreement with them back in 2013. Because the bowl game is actually owned by ESPN, the conference tie-ins don’t always hold up: the network gets to make the final call on who takes on one of Army, Navy, and Air Force.
It would be fun to see the Wildcats talented front-seven go up against and try to defend the triple option, but NU and its fans would definitely prefer to see the team have another chance to knock off an opponent from a Power Five conference.