The Bowl Page


Win vs. Duke Keeps Postseason
Hopes Alive

Northwestern's 0-2 start did not bode well for the rest of the 2016 season. Losses to a MAC team and an FCS squad put the 'Cats in a very large hole from which they will need to claw back to claim a .500 season. They got a few feet up from the bottom with their convincing win vs. the Blue Devils, but there is a long way to go.

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 will 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 was the case last year (when two B1G teams with 5-7 records were given postseason spots), and it means that a team need only go 6-6 to virtually guarantee a bowl game.

HTP NU Bowl Projections

NU's win over Duke prevented the bowl projections from going to a virtual zero percent. However, injuries to NU's defensive secondary and ongoing performance issues with several positions remain roadblocks to a bowl. B1G West competition remains very strong, despite losses by Illinois and Iowa. HTP projects a 13% chance that the 'Cats will go bowling this season. The most likely outcome for 2016 is that NU will miss the postseason. The projection breakout by bowl tier is below.

The bowl projections will next be updated after the Nebraska game.

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2016-17

(and Date)
(may change)
NU's Chances1
(as of 9/18/16)
Tier Two
Big Ten #2-4

Citrus Bowl (vs. SEC)
Dec. 31
ABC 1%
Outback Bowl (vs. SEC)
Jan. 2
Holiday Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 27

Tier Three2
Big Ten #5-7

Music City Bowl (vs. SEC)
Dec. 30
[Likely to select B1G]
TaxSlayer (aka Gator) (vs. SEC)
Dec. 31
[Unlikely to select B1G in 2016]
Pinstripe Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 28

Foster Farms Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Dec. 28
Tier Four2
Big Ten #8-9

Quick Lane Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 26

Armed Forces Bowl (MWC)
Dec. 23
Heart of Dallas (Big 12 vs. C-USA)
Dec. 27
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. 

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.  This is also the case with the Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl, which will try to alternate B1G selections. In 2016, the B1G will likely play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, not the Armed Forces.


Northwestern Bowl History

Select a link to view details about NU's 12 bowl appearances, bowl records, and other special games.