The Bowl Page


It Comes Down to Illinois
NU Must Get Sixth Win;
5-7 Bowl Scenario Is Dead

Week of Nov. 23

CBS (Jerry Palm):  Detroit Quick Lane vs. Virginia
ESPN (Adam Rittenberg):  tba
ESPN (Brett McMurphy):  tba
ESPN (Mark Schlabach): tba
CFN: tba
Phil Steele:  tba
SB Nation (Jason Kirk): Heart of Dallas vs. LA Tech

NU's pogo stick season continues to send fans into dizzying highs and lows. Nearly counted out of the postseason, the Wildcats briefly roared back into the picture in October. Stunning wins over Penn State and Wisconsin reset expectations. The team then came untracked, losing terrible games to Iowa and Michigan, before rocketing back into the postseason picture with its wild upset of Notre Dame.

The team's odds of making a bowl are now projected at 53%

We're basically at a coin flip.

The current projections show a 57% chance of NU beating Illinois this Saturday. IF NU beats Illinois, then there is a 93% chance of a 6-6 NU team making it to either a B1G bowl or a nonaligned bowl. The odds of both of these events happening is 53%.

If, however, NU loses to Illinois there is now a zero percent chance of NU making it to the postseason. As of now, there are 73 bowl-eligible teams for 76 bowl spots.*  If NU loses to Illinois, the Illini will become bowl eligible. There are 13 other teams currently sitting at 5-6 (and two at 5-5). Given the overlapping schedules, there will be at least 76 bowl eligible teams by the end of next Saturday. NU's 5-7 bowl scenario was dependent on this not happening

The final update to the projections will be after the Illinois game.

*I am counting two Sun Belt teams that are not truly bowl eligible (Georgia Southern and App. State), but would still have pecking order in bowl selections over a 5-7 FBS team. So, even though there are 71 bowl eligible teams in the standard sense, there are 73 teams in line before a 5-7 team.

The Big Ten unveiled last summer its new bowl arrangements, including 11 different bowl games that will rotate to fill nine spots per year.  Nine landing places for the conference is a record for the B1G.

More importantly, the selection process has changed.  Rather than each bowl having a spot in a one-by-one pecking order, the bowls are tiered, and each bowl within a tier will work together and with the Big Ten Conference to determine which eligible team is the best "fit" within the tier.  The criteria are a labyrinth of financial and media-driven rules.  However, they are influenced by how many times a team has recently played in the bowl in question.

Because of the new system, has stopped predicting NU's chances for each individual bowl.  Instead, we now forecast in which tier NU will land (see below).

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2014-15
and HTP Odds
(and Date)
(may change)
NU's Chances*
(as of Nov. 23)
Tier Three**
Big Ten #5-7

TaxSlayer (aka Gator) (vs. SEC)
Jan. 2
ESPN 10%
Foster Farms (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 30
Music City (vs. SEC)
Dec. 30
Pinstripe (vs. ACC)
Dec. 27
Tier Four**
Big Ten #8-9

Armed Forces (Army vs. American)
Jan. 2
ESPN 22%
Detroit Quick Lane (vs. ACC)
Dec. 26
Heart of Dallas (vs. C-USA)
Dec. 26

TBD n/a 21%

*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 2014.
 ** 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.  This is also the case with the Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl. Of these last two bowls, a B1G team will likely be chosen for the Dallas Bowl in 2014.


Northwestern Bowl History

Select a link to view details about NU's 11 bowl appearances, bowl records, and other special games.