The Bowl Page


Win at Maryland Puts
'Cats Back on Track for Bowl

Northwestern, fresh off of a great win in New York at the Pinstripe Bowl, returned much of its talent from 2016 and had 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.

Oct. 15, 2017 Projection

The 'Cats overcame the ejection last week of two of their most important defensive players and turned up the intensity on offense, turning in a nice win in their first-ever meeting with Maryland. The win puts NU back at .500 for the season, and gives them critical momentum as they head into a pair of vital home games.

For the bowl picture, the win over Maryland means that NU's path to five wins becomes much easier.

Based on the probability models, HTP now projects that NU will finish with six wins.

If NU only finishes with five wins, there is currently a 70% 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 82%. The most likely destination is once again: Foster Farms.

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

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2017-18

(may change)
NU's Chances1
(as of 10/15/17)

Tier Two
Big Ten #2-4

Citrus Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
[If Orange Bowl does not select B1G]
ABC 10%
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 39%
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 30%
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 3%


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.