The ‘Cats might be bowl bound and the season hasn’t even started yet.
The Division I Football Oversight Committee recommended Thursday that due to the unprecedented nature of the 2020 college football season, any FBS team playing this year should be eligible to play in a bowl game regardless of record as long as it meets the Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirements.
In a typical year, the NCAA usually requires a team to finish with a .500 overall record against FBS opponents to become bowl eligible, but if the motion passes, teams that meet certain academic standards could qualify for postseason play regardless of their record. Additionally, bowl games are scheduled to take place from December 1, 2020 to January 11, 2021.
The Division I Council must still approve the proposal and is set to meet on October 13-14.
Historically, APR has played to Northwestern’s advantage as one of the strongest academic football programs in the nation. Out of 130 FBS teams, Northwestern tied for third in APR in the most recent ranking (2018-2019) with a score of 995 out of 1000. They trailed Washington (999) and Ole Miss (997) and tied with Air Force for the year’s scores.
The year before, NU ranked second, and in 2016-2017, the ‘Cats led the nation with a score of 997. Since the NCAA began inviting teams with below a .500 record to participate in bowls, Northwestern has benefited and often only has to finish with a 5-7 record to become bowl eligible each year.
Should this motion pass in a couple of weeks, Northwestern will be on its way to a bowl game for the first time in two years without playing a single snap. From there, the question will be which bowl and against whom? It’s not like selecting fan bases that travel will be much a factor.