I'm sure that there were a few people who were wondering, before last weekend, if Northwestern was going to be damned to the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit. Pessimists within the fan base suggested after the collapse at Penn State that the 'Cats would finish 6-6 and get passed by the likes of the Illini and the Nittany Lions. Luckily, we got two very nice gifts. The obvious one is that we won our 7th game of the season by upsetting Iowa, taking us off the track from the "Pizza! Pizza!" Bowl and somewhere a little bit... warmer. The other is the unexpected demise of Illinois at the hands of Minnesota this past weekend. A win against the Illini on Saturday guarantees that they will not jump us in the bowl standings, as they could only have a 6-6 record at best.
Big Ten blog Off-Tackle Empire now projects NU to attend the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas, to face Texas Tech. However, blog author Bama Hawkeye says this under the guise that Northwestern loses their last two games and gets jumped by Penn State and Illinois. (They predict Michigan to finish 8-4.)
Mark Schlabach and Andrea Adelson from ESPN are divided this week. Schlabach has us going up against Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. Andrea's hopes are more muted, however, as she agrees with Off-Tackle Empire and the TicketCity Bowl. Both sports pundits assume the Big Ten lands two BCS bids.
Northwestern blog Hail to Purple takes more of the middle ground regarding the 'Cats bowl prospects. In its projection, we have just about an even likelihood of being in either the TicketCity Bowl (named here as the Dallas Football Classic) or the Texas Bowl.
Because of the three-way tie at the top of the Big Ten standings, there is no statistical possibility that we could make the Capital One bowl this year. However, with a lot of help and some logistical pandering, we could see the Outback Bowl for a second straight season. That said, winning out would realistically give us the Gator Bowl at best. So who do we root for this week? We want...
...Wisconsin to beat Michigan.
This continues the very likely possibility that the Big Ten lands two teams into BCS bowls this season. Moreover, a loss by Michigan coupled with another loss to Ohio State the following week would put Michigan out of bowl-hopping contention, should we win out. A win for Wisconsin here helps us with our strength of schedule for our match-up the following week.
...Iowa to lose to Ohio State.
This is the same argument as above. It would be really nice to have Iowa actually in the rearview mirror. It would be even better to have bragging rights in saying that we had a better record that Iowa this year.
...Indiana to defeat Penn State.
This would put the Hoosiers on the cusp of becoming bowl-eligible with a tilt against Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket to end the season. That said, if we beat Illinois this weekend, there's little threat of Indiana leapfrogging NU should they become bowl-eligible. Meanwhile, we would like to see Penn State lose out, ending the season at 6-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten. With one win for the 'Cats (and a 4-4 Big Ten campaign), the Nittany Lions could still overtake us in bowl selection, particularly since they own the head-to-head win against us.
...Michigan State to beat Purdue.
This would keep MSU in the BCS bowl game hunt and put the Boilermakers out of their misery for the season. They would become the second (or third) team unable to become bowl-eligible.
This should be an easy week in terms of rooting for the favorites. The only unlikely outcome is Indiana over Penn State (although the game is being played in Bloomington). Root 'em on, all the while wearing purple. Go 'Cats!