The Bowl Page


'Cats Have Uphill Climb
to Postseason in 2015

Remember the triumph of the Gator Bowl championship? Sure you do, but it's getting a little foggy, isn't it? NU's January 2013 bowl win is getting ever distant in the team's rear-view mirror, with two losing seasons stretching out on the road recently traveled.

The team needs to return to the postseason in 2015, but doing so will be a challenge. The 'Cats should have a solid defense, and they maintain a group of talented running backs and wide receivers, but questions remain at quarterback and on the offensive line.

If NU does make it to bowl eligibility, it will be greeted with a similar game slate to the one introduced last year, when the Big Ten bowl tiers were installed. The 2014 arrangement involves 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 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 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).

Last year, NU's pending 5-7 record briefly raised speculation that the 'Cats would become bowl eligible because of the lack of winning or 6-6 teams needed to fill all of the bowl slots. However, by the time NU lost to Illinois, it was clear that there would not be a shortage of winning teams, and the 'Cats were eliminated. That might not be the case this year. With a record 40 bowls in 2015 (including the championship game), 78 teams are needed, and the 'Cats' APR ranking place them near the top of the list for potential 5-7 teams.

Final Preseason Bowl Projections

HTP projects NU as having a 52% chance of making it back to the postseason-- basically a coin flip.  This includes the small potential of qualifying with a third-straight 5-7 record. The odds are down just two percentage points from April. While NU's quarterback and offensive line spots are still very much uncertain, the 'Cats have come through preseason practice with virtually no serious injuries, a dramatic improvement from last season's start. Further reassessments of NU's opponents (particularly Ball State, Minnesota, and Illinois) have also helped to keep NU's chances above the 50% line.

The next update to the projections will be after this Saturday's game vs. Stanford.

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2015-16

AND Schedule for the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game
(and Date)
(may change)
NU's Chances*
(as of Aug. 30)
West #1
vs. East #1
Big Ten Championship
Lucas Oil Stadium
Dec. 5, 2015
Tier One
Big Ten #1

Playoff semifinal game:
Cotton Bowl - Dec. 31
Orange Bowl - Dec. 31
ESPN <1%
Rose Bowl
Jan. 1, 2016
Tier Two
Big Ten #2-4

Citrus Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
ABC 5%
Holiday Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 30
Outback Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
Tier Three**
Big Ten #5-7

TaxSlayer (aka Gator) (vs. SEC)
Jan. 2
ESPN 18%
Foster Farms Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 26
Music City Bowl (vs. SEC)
Dec. 30
Pinstripe Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 26
Tier Four**
Big Ten #8-9

Armed Forces Bowl (MWC)
Dec. 29
ESPN 25%
Quick Lane Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 28
Heart of Dallas (Big 12 vs. C-USA)
Dec. 26

At Large
Non-Aligned Bowl
n/a 3%

*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 2015.  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.
 ** 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 Armed Forces Bowl in 2015.


Northwestern Bowl History

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