The Bowl Page


'Cats Look for First-Ever
Back-to-Back Bowl Wins

Win vs. Bowling Green
Puts NU Back on Track

Northwestern, fresh off of a great win in New York at the Pinstripe Bowl, is returning much of its talent from 2016 and has a shot at heading back to a bowl this year. If NU can make it to the postseason, the team could achieve a second straight postseason win, which would be a first for NU.

This year's postseason slate is similar to the one introduced in 2014, when the Big Ten bowl tiers were installed. As noted elsewhere, after initially stating that there would be a formal tier system, the Big Ten backed off of the idea, and the tiers are more of a guide. Nevertheless, there are significant differences in quality between tiers, and very little difference within a given tier.
Because of this structure, stopped predicting NU's chances for each individual bowl.  Instead, we  forecast in which tier NU will land (see below).

The 2014 arrangement involves 11 different bowl games that rotate to fill nine spots per year.  Nine landing places for the conference is a record for the B1G. When we add to that the possibility of the Big Ten filling multiple "New Year's Six" bowl games, it becomes clear that the conference will likely have fewer qualified teams than bowl slots. 6-6 guarantees a bowl bid. NU, given its high APR, will also have a strong chance for a bowl even if the 'Cats go 5-7.

Sept. 16, 2017 Projection

NU still has some unresolved issues, but the team has bounced back nicely from the hard loss vs. Duke. Injuries during the past three weeks are a concern, but the line play appears to be improving.

The current models didn't change a great deal vs. last week, which is a good thing.

Based on the probability models, we continue to predict that NU will finish the regular season with six or seven wins.

Dropping to five wins (or less) still appears unlikely, and even if NU did finish with five wins, there is currently a 74% chance that the 'Cats would still make it to a bowl. Detailed bowl odds are below.

HTP NU Bowl Projections

The current odds of NU returning to a bowl game are 85%. The most likely destination: the Foster Farms Bowl.

The next update to the projections will be after the Wisconsin game.

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2017-18

AND Schedule for the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game
(and Date-- dates may change through spring)
(may change)
NU's Chances1
(as of 9/16/17)

West #1
vs. East #1
Big Ten Championship
Lucas Oil Stadium
Dec. 2, 2017
Tier One
Big Ten #1

Playoff semifinal games:
Rose Bowl - Jan. 1, 2018
Sugar Bowl - Jan. 1
Orange Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 30
Fiesta Bowl (at large)
Dec. 30

Peach Bowl
Jan. 1
Cotton Bowl
Dec. 29
Tier Two
Big Ten #2-4

Citrus Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
[If Orange Bowl does not select B1G]
ABC 17%
Outback Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
[Unlikely to select NU in 2017]
Holiday Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 28

Tier Three2
Big Ten #5-7

Music City Bowl (vs. SEC)
Dec. 29
[Unlikely to select B1G in 2017]
ESPN 37%
TaxSlayer (aka Gator) (vs. SEC)
Dec. 30
[Likely to select B1G in 2017]
Pinstripe Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 27
[Will not select NU in 2017]
Foster Farms Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 27
Tier Four2
Big Ten #8-9

Quick Lane Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 26

ESPN 28%
Armed Forces Bowl (vs. MWC)
Dec. 23
Heart of Dallas (vs. Big 12 or C-USA)
Dec. 26
At Large
Non-Aligned Bowl
n/a 1%


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 in 2016.  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. There are more bowl games in these tiers than there are Big Ten team slots.  It is likely that a Big Ten team will not be chosen for both the Music City and Gator Bowls in a given year (in 2017, the B1G will likely play in the Gator Bowl, not the Music City Bowl).  This is also the case with the Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl, which will try to alternate B1G selections.


Northwestern Bowl History

Select a link to view details about NU's 13 bowl appearances, bowl records, and other special games.