The Bowl Page


'Cats Aiming for Bowl Success

While Northwestern managed to return to the college football postseason last year, for the first time in three seasons, it couldn't compete in the game itself. This year NU has the talent to return to postseason play, but it needs to prepare now to be able to finish strong and win a bowl game.

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.

Final Preseason HTP NU Bowl Projections

Given the returning depth of talent and NU's schedule, HTP projects an 83% chance that the 'Cats will go bowling this season. This is slightly higher than the chance given during the spring, due to the relative lack of injuries so far during camp and the current state of the depth chart. The most likely bowl right now is Music City. The projection breakout by bowl tier is below.

The bowl projections will next be updated after the Western Michigan season opener.

Schedule of Possible Bowls, 2016-17

AND Schedule for the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game
(and Date)
(may change)
NU's Chances1
(as of 8/14/16)
West #1
vs. East #1
Big Ten Championship
Lucas Oil Stadium
Dec. 3, 2016
Tier One
Big Ten #1

Playoff semifinal game:
Peach Bowl - Dec. 31
Fiesta Bowl - Dec. 31
Rose Bowl (vs. Pac-12)
Jan. 2, 2017
Orange Bowl (vs. ACC)
Dec. 30
[Likely to select B1G]
Cotton Bowl
Jan. 2
[Unlikely to select B1G in 2016]
Tier Two
Big Ten #2-4

Citrus Bowl (vs. SEC)
Dec. 31
ABC 14%
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]
ESPN 37%
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

ESPN 24%
Armed Forces Bowl (MWC)
Dec. 23
Heart of Dallas (Big 12 vs. C-USA)
Dec. 27
At Large
Non-Aligned Bowl
n/a 1%


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.  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.