Friends, it's the time of year when we start looking at bowl placements in the Big Ten conference. While our Wildcats still have a shot at winning a share of the Big Ten title, the odds are getting quite slim at this point and we're going to need some help in order to make the Rose Bowl. Judging from our record and remaining schedule, we're currently being placed in a low-tier bowl. Let's not settle for that, mmkay?
Big Ten blog Off-Tackle Empire has NU going to the Texas Bowl, which is fine and dandy, except they assume that Michigan will be stuck behind us (true, if we go 7-5 and Michigan goes 6-6) and that two Big Ten teams will make the BCS bowls (less likely).
ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Andrea Adelson both have us going to the Texas Bowl.
Fellow Northwestern blogger Hail to Purple has the 'Cats most likely to enter the Dallas Football Classic. The second most like destination is --once again-- the Texas Bowl.
From what I can tell, most of these projections assume a 7-5 record (more or less). We obviously have control over these last four games, but how can the other Big Ten teams help us this week? Let's take a closer look after the jump. We want...
...Michigan State to beat Minnesota.
"Wait, Sasser, don't we want MSU to LOSE?" Well, yes and no. We want them to lose at some point, but this week isn't it. If MSU loses to Minnesota, they'll have done something that no other Big Ten team has accomplished this season -- lose to Minnesota. That will really hurt our strength of schedule more than MSU's win will hurt our chances of leapfrogging them in the future.
...Illinois to defeat Michigan.
This one's the easiest to figure out. We have yet to face Illinois, while we don't play Michigan this season. If Michigan can only get to 6-6 (or even better, lose out), we would stay ahead of them in the bowl pecking order. More so, Illinois' win would set us up to face another bowl-eligible team when they visit Wrigley Field in just over two weeks. We need to assume that winning against Illinois means something. Couple that with a win over Penn State this weekend, and we could be going to a bowl better than the Texas Bowl.
...Iowa to LOSE to Indiana.
Iowa's remaining slate really complicates things here. Iowa owns a 3-1 record in the Big Ten, but they also have Ohio State remaining on their schedule. For things to play out right for the 'Cats, we need the Hawkeyes to lose two more games yet beat Ohio State. Losing two more games puts their conference record at 5-3, 8-4 overall. If NU wins three more games (including Iowa), we stand a chance at leapfrogging them in the bowl pecking order.
...Wisconsin to beat Purdue.
This one is harder to call, because there are a lot of assumptions to be made. If Purdue wins, they stand a chance at getting bowl eligible, even getting to 7-5. Because of their win against Northwestern, the bowl selection committees may see that as a reason to jump us in the bowl standings. It's best to just take them out of the picture as soon as possible and not have to worry about them. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's schedule is ridiculously easy, with match-ups @ Michigan and vs. Northwestern being their hardest remaining games. Our only hope in jumping them for the second straight season is to have Wisky win out up until their final game, whereupon they lose to a 'Cats team that goes 4-0 in November, 10-2 for the season.
There you have it. Do your best to pretend that you're a Spartans, Illini, Hoosiers and Badgers fan this week, all while staying proud of the Purple.