Following Saturday’s victory over the Hoosiers in Bloomington, our beloved Wildcats sit at 6-2, attaining bowl eligibility for the fourth consecutive season. While we could sit and ask, “what if?” — imagining where we would be had we not blown late leads to Purdue and Michigan State — the fact remains that, at least in terms of longevity, the ‘Cats are enjoying an unprecedented period of success. Now that we will indeed be bowling, it’s time to look at our chances for each Big Ten bowl tie-in and formulate premature plans for winter break tailgates.
Note: All Big Ten bowl seeds are subject to change. Predictions assume that the Big Ten champion does not also play in the BCS National Championship game and the conference only sends one team to the five major BCS bowls.
Pasadena, Calif. -– Jan. 1
Traditionally Big Ten champs vs. Pac-10 champs, now Big Ten BCS vs. at large BCS.
The Wildcats’ slim chances at Pasadena evaporated with their second loss. Coach Fitzgerald’s self-imposed In-N-Out Burger fast will continue another season.
Odds: We’re only going if Hell freezes over.
Capital One Bowl
Orlando, Fla. –- Jan. 1
Big Ten second place vs. SEC second place
What was originally an ambitious but attainable goal for the Wildcats has all but fallen out of reach after Michigan State’s first loss against Iowa on Saturday. The Big Ten won’t likely send a team to the BCS championship game, so the ‘Cats should hope two Big Ten teams finish their schedules undefeated and swing an extra at-large BCS berth. If we are so lucky, the Wildcats’ bowl position gets bumped up an extra level.
Odds: Chances are Slim to None, and Slim just peaced out.
Tampa, Fla. –- Jan. 1
Big Ten third place vs. SEC third place
The Outback Bowl probably represents the most optimistic assessment of Northwestern’s final destination. If Northwestern cleans up against the conference’s lower-level opponents (although the Nov. 6 matchup against Penn State and our Wrigley Field game against Illinois look increasingly imposing) and takes one of two against their toughest remaining opponents (Iowa and Wisconsin, both in the thick of a complicated Big Ten title hunt), then they should be well-positioned to get revenge for last year’s loss against the SEC. A tilt with the University of Florida or Louisiana State would be the likely match-up.
Odds: It’s a sucker’s bet.
Jacksonville, Fla. -– Jan. 1
Big Ten fourth place vs. SEC sixth place
A New Year’s Day bowl would be a solid result for the Wildcats, and the Gator Bowl looks to be their best shot at ringing in 2011 with our first bowl victory in six decades. Wins against Penn State and Iowa, their main competitors for the berth, would probably do the trick, and a 3-1 finish would lock up at least a Gator Bowl appearance. If they make it, the Ryan Mallett-led Arkansas Razorbacks or the aforementioned Florida Gators are likely match-ups.
Odds: Don’t hold your breath.
Tempe, Ariz. –- Dec. 28
Big Ten fifth place vs. Big 12 fourth place
A 2-2 finish but a loss to Penn State or Illinois probably lands us in the desert. If the ‘Cats do end up in the Insight Bowl, they could be in for a tough one, as the well-established Texas and Missouri programs could very well fall to fourth in this year’s Big 12. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Odds: ‘Cats need more claws
Houston, Tex. -– Dec. 29
Big Ten sixth place vs. Big 12 sixth place
If we’re desperate to break that 51-year bowl win drought, it might be prudent to tank and then come on strong in the Texas Bowl. One win in the final four games probably lands the ‘Cats in Houston, a disappointing result considering the 5-0 start, but not really that bad a season. On a decidedly happier note, how on earth does the Big 12 have six bowl tie-ins?
Odds: Break out those cowboy boots, partner.
Dallas Football Classic or the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl
Dallas, Tex. — Jan. 1 and Detroit, Mich. — Dec. 26
Big Ten seventh place vs. Big 12 eighth place or Conference USA (seeding to be determined) and Big Ten eight place vs. MAC first place respectively
Let’s group these two together, say a little prayer and move on. Win just one and we’re probably safe.
Odds: Lord have mercy; please, no!