The Bowl Page


Hot Wildcats Now Look at
Possible B1G West Run

Northwestern entered the 2018 season with a two-bowl winning streak, and was in a good position to make a run at bowl win #3 in a row. The 'Cats returned a powerful defense and an offensive backfield that was stocked, despite losing Justin Jackson. However, the season began in disappointing fashion, with NU losing to Duke, Akron, and Michigan. But the 'Cats seem to have righted the ship, with B1G wins vs. the Spartans and Cornhuskers. NU is now 3-1 in the B1G, and are still in the hunt in the West. Wisconsin's flop in Ann Arbor has left the West wide open.

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. This has been the case for two years running, and it means that a team need only go 6-6 to virtually guarantee a bowl game.

Oct. 14 Wins Projection

The win over Nebraska has NU back in the six-win range, with a decent shot at eight wins for the regular season:

Detailed bowl odds are below.

HTP NU Bowl Projections

As always with Northwestern, it's very difficult to project the team's postseason: the team that can lose at home to Akron is just as likely to whack a #20 team on the road.

The current odds of NU returning to the postseason are 84%, up from 71% last week.

The most likely destination is interesting this year. I think that NU and the B1G will lobby to get the 'Cats in a game on the West Coast if NU's record allows. With NU's wins over MSU and Nebraska, I think the 'Cats are again on track for a West Coast Bowl, likely San Fran (aka the RedBox Bowl).

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

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2018-19

AND Schedule for the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game
(and Date)
(may change)
NU's Chances1
(as of 10/14/18)

West #1
vs. East #1
Big Ten Championship
Lucas Oil Stadium
Dec. 1, 2018
Fox 19%
Tier Two
Big Ten #2-4

Citrus Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
[Orange Bowl is a semifinal game for 2018-19]
ABC 23%
Outback Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 1
[Unlikely to select NU in 2018]
Holiday Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 31

Tier Three2
Big Ten #5-7

Music City Bowl (vs. SEC)
Dec. 28
[Unlikely to select B1G in 2018]
ESPN 37%
TaxSlayer (aka Gator) (vs. SEC)
Dec. 31
[Likely to select B1G in 2018]
Pinstripe Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 27
[Unlikely to select NU in 2018]
RedBox (aka San Fran) (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 31
Tier Four2
Big Ten #8-9

Quick Lane Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 26

ESPN 22%
Armed Forces Bowl (vs. MWC)
Dec. 22
[Won't select B1G]
Heart of Dallas (vs. Big 12 or C-USA)
Dec. 26
[Unlikely to select B1G]
At Large
Non-Aligned Bowl (including Frisco TX)
n/a 2%


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 14 bowl appearances, bowl records, and other special games.