The Bowl Page


Spring POV and Bowl Odds

'Cats Might Have Too Much Change
to Work Through in '23

On the heels of two of the most disappointing seasons in over 40 years-- including last year's horrific 1-11 campaign-- NU football is going through huge changes this year. The program has a group of new coaches, including:
  • Defensive coordinator David Braun (from FCS North Dakota State)
  • Wide receivers coach Armon Binns (from FCS Youngstown State)
  • Defensive line coach Christian Smith (from FCS South Dakota State)
  • Cornerbacks coach LaMarcus Hicks (from Utah State)
The Wildcats also face big changes on its playing roster, with question marks in nearly every position. At quarterback, Ryan Hilinski and Brendan Sullivan will face competition from Jack Lausch, who played in one game in 2022.

The rest of the offense was gutted by graduation, transfers, and the NFL draft. The wide receivers corps is essentially starting from scratch.

Defense was a smoldering tire fire last year, and it is being reconstructed this year under Braun's guidance. The defensive line is starting over with a new coach, and its strength will be an unknown until the smoke clears from this spring's transfers.

Given the high number of departing starters and the significant changes to the roster, combined with the team's woeful record last year, it might be too much to ask for the team to return to a bowl game in 2023. This season will likely be a time to solidify the new team and staff and look to the future.

HTP Spring Wins and Bowl Projections

The initial odds of NU returning to a bowl game are 20%, the lowest spring odds since we first set them in 2000. The spring model estimates that NU will improve vs. last year, moving from one win to four wins

Our models predict a decent chance that a five-win NU would make it into a bowl. However, as the season begins this factor could change if it becomes clear that the FBS will be able to field an adequate supply of six-win teams to fill all bowl slots.

The next update to the projections will post during the August preseason practices.

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2023-24
AND Schedule for the 2023 Big Ten Championship Game
(and Date)
(may change)
NU's Chances1
(as of 4/16/23)

Big Ten Title Game:

West #1
vs. East #1
Big Ten Championship
Lucas Oil Stadium
Dec. 2, 2023
Fox <1%


Tier One
Big Ten #1

Playoff semifinal games:
Rose and Sugar Bowls
January 1, 2024
ESPN <1%
Orange (ACC vs. SEC/B1G)
Fiesta Bowl (At Large vs. At Large)
Dec. 30

Peach (At Large vs. At Large)
Dec. 29
Cotton (At Large vs. At Large)
Jan. 1
Tier Two
Big Ten #2-3

Citrus (vs. SEC/ACC)

ABC <1%
ReliaQuest2 (vs. SEC)

Tier Three
Big Ten #4-7
Gator (B1G or ACC vs. SEC)
(Not likely to select B1G in 2023)

Las Vegas (vs. Pac-12)
Music City (vs. SEC)

Pinstripe (vs. ACC)
Tier Four
Big Ten #8-9

Guaranteed Rate (vs. Big 12)

ESPN 10%
Quick Lane (vs. MAC)

At Large
Non-Aligned Bowl
n/a 4%
No Go
No bowl for NU: most / all bowls canceled
n/a 1%
No Go
No bowl for NU: NU does not qualify / is not invited
n/a 79%

1. The likelihood of each bowl is a simple projection by  The likelihood numbers are additive.  So, if for instance the chance for a tier three bowl is given as 10%, that should NOT be read as saying that NU has only a 10% chance of making any bowl at that level or higher.  To calculate that likelihood, simply add all the chances above tier three to it.  The sum of all the listed chances equals the projected likelihood that NU will make any bowl game.  When adding, remember not to include the likelihood for the Big Ten championship game, since its chances overlap with the other postseason games.  During the season, this list will change after each game.

2. The ReliaQuest Bowl is the former Hall of Fame Bowl, later re-named the Outback Bowl. It has been re-named again with the change of sponsor.

Recap of HTP Weekly Bowl Odds,
2016 - 2022

Ever since the summer of 2000, HTP has posted the likelihood of NU playing in a bowl game, typically updated in April, during the August preseason, and weekly during the season until NU's postseason is determined. Here are the weekly odds during the most recent six seasons:

Obviously, 2020 is an outlier: we did not have any idea if the season would even be played, let alone if there would be bowl games. Even at the end of the truncated season, when NU claimed the Big Ten West title, there was only a 74% chance that the 'Cats would bowl, because total cancellation was still a real possibility.

Taking out 2020, the most recent seasons began with high hopes for a bowl appearance-- with the notable exception of 2022. 2022 stands out as being the only "normal" season recently during which the preseason odds actually dipped below 50%. The win against Nebraska bumped the bowl likelihood to 66%, and then the odds went into the quickest freefall since 2002.

The trend of when during each season the odds became certain-- 100% or 0%-- is also stark:
  • 2017: 100% by week 8
  • 2018: 100% by week 10
  • 2019: 0% by week 7
  • 2021: 0% by week 8
  • 2022: 0% by week 5