Watching the Bowl Watchers – Baiting the Gator?

Since we last explored Northwestern’s bowl possibilities, a bit of a controversy erupted about a perceived snub of Northwestern by the Gator Bowl’s president. It began two weeks ago, when, in an October 23 Florida Times-Union article, the bowl’s president, Rick Catlett, listed off some teams “that might be available” to to the bowl.


The Big Ten is getting criticism this year but if you strip aside the records and focus on the historic identity of the teams that might be available to us, getting Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa or either Michigan or Michigan State would be a great opponent for our SEC team.”


Notice a certain purple and white school missing from that list?

Further stirring the pot, the writer, Gary Smits, implied the Gator Bowl would not select Northwestern…


Although Catlett didn’t rule any Big Ten team out, Northwestern is unlikely to get to Jacksonville because most non-BCS bowls shy away from private schools with small enrollments and alumni bases for economic reasons: They don’t buy many tickets or bring many fans to a bowl city.


The only way the Wildcats might get to the Gator Bowl is to get to the Big Ten title game, lose, and then get by-passed by the Capital One and Outback. The Big Ten championship game loser, by contract, can’t fall below the Gator Bowl.


Last week, Teddy Greenstein spoke to Catlett, who said he meant no disrespect to NU. Teddy reports Catlett said Northwestern was not mentioned in the question that prompted the answer where he listed many teams not named “Northwestern,” and the passage above was “my good friend Garry Smits editorializing.” Teddy also wrote the following:


Catlett said the Gator would be ‘happy to have’ any team on its board and that the selection committee will look more at how a team performed late in the season — affecting the ‘psyche’ of its fans — than whether it historically travels well.


Teddy also pointed out that Northwestern does, in fact, travel well to bowl games, and was a big reason why the Outback Bowl chose NU in 2009, and a factor in the Meineke Car Care Bowl’s selection of the Cats last season.

So, what does all of this mean?

The home stretch coming out of the bye week is going to be critical to determining the Cats’ bowl game destination. Finish strong by performing well against Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois, and the Cats should have pretty good odds of playing on New Years Day.

Speaking of odds, Teddy wrote a great article Wednesday giving his odds of Northwestern’s bowl destinations. I encourage you to read it, as Teddy provides a “what has to happen” scenario for each bowl game possibility, but here are the odds he’s placed at this point…

  • Rose Bowl – 1%
  • Fiesta/Sugar Bowl – 1%
  • Capital One Bowl – 30%
  • Outback Bowl – 22%
  • Gator Bowl – 15%
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – 30%
  • Meineke Car Care Bowl – 1%

So, according to Teddy, the most likely destinations at this point are Orlando and Tempe.

Before we get into what the prognosticators we have been following think, let’s do our regular quick recap of the Big Ten’s bowl tie ins, and a reminder… the order is order of selection by the bowls, not order of finish in the conference standings.

  • Big Ten Champion – Rose Bowl vs. Pac-12 Champion – January 1, Pasadena, CA
  • Big Ten #2 – Capital One Bowl vs. SEC #2 – January 1, Orlando FL
  • Big Ten #3 – Outback Bowl vs. SEC – January 1, Tampa, FL
  • Big Ten #4/#5 – Gator Bowl vs. SEC #6 – January 1, Jacksonville, FL
  • Big Ten #4/#5 – Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. Big 12 #4 – December 29, Tempe, AZ
  • Big Ten #6 – Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Big 12 #6 – December 28, Houston, TX
  • Big Ten #7 – Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Conference USA – January 1, Dallas, TX
  • Big Ten #8 – Little Caesars Bowl vs. MAC – December 26, Detroit, MI

The Gator Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl alternate selection order, and this year, the Gator picks ahead of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Gator #4, Buffalo Wild Wings #5).

Now, let’s review the guestimators… Some big changes from the last time we checked in, before the Cats game against Iowa. Northwestern has moved up in the eyes of most of the professional guestimators, with three of the folks we are following jumping the Cats up to the Gator Bowl, while one writer, Mark Schlabach of, actually dropped NU out of the Gator Bowl. So now we have five predictors projecting a trip to Jacksonville, while three are guessing a trip to the desert. Plus, all eight seem to believe the Cats have risen above the Meineke Car Car Bowl.

Note that changes (or lack thereof) from last time are marked in parentheses.

Gator Bowl, January 1, Jacksonville, FL

  • Brad Edwards/, vs. TCU (moved up in Meineke Car Care Bowl)
  • Matt Murschel/Orlando Sentinel, vs. Mississippi State (was vs. Texas A & M)
  • Phil Steele, vs. Mississippi State (was vs. Texas A & M)
  • Erick Smith/USATODAY, vs. Mississippi State (moved up from Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
  • Paul Myerberg/USATODAY, vs. Mississippi State (moved up from Meineke Car Care Bowl)

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, December 29, Tempe, AZ

  • Ben

    I actually think we could take any of those teams we’re likely to match-up against by those projectors.

  • MB1982

    As a Jacksonville resident who is familiar with the politics of the Gator Bowl, I think the Tribune story embarrassed Catlett and would make it difficult for him to pass up NU if it comes down to that.

  • DarkSide

    This is all premature. Work. Execute. Beat Michigan. Go ‘Cats!

    • DT


  • CMF

    Let’s sweep the state of Michigan the next 2 weeks and see where the chips fall. I think these next 2 weeks and the bowl game will tell us a lot and could be a springboard for 2013. Not sure on the bowl opponent, but these 2 Michigan teams are beatable with a solid game plan and if we limit the mistakes (turnovers, penalties).

  • The Jacksonville issue is solely on the author of that article… here’s his latest gator bowl article with no quotes but still critical towards NU:

    The takeaway paragraphs:

    Likewise, Michigan State would be welcomed and its huge alumni base would probably result in a lot of fans coming to town. The Gator Bowl would have to get some strong assurances from Northwestern, a private school with a small enrollment and alumni base, that they’d support the game.

    If Iowa had a better season, the Hawkeye fans likely would have invaded town in full force. Nebraska and Wisconsin also are valued choices but will probably play in the Big Ten championship game, with the winner going to the Rose Bowl and the loser going to the Capital One or the Outback Bowl.

    • ende

      Frankly i think jacksonville has not much to offer as far as a destination. Just compared to phx etc. culture??

  • cece

    would be great to have a bowl game in Florida which is actually a road trip that many students (and full cars) like, an easy flight, multiple things to do, lots of people with regular vacation destinations. was so much fun in the times past for bowl games in Florida. we want to get LOTS of people to a bowl game and multiple ways to get there…not just the school trip…is a key to getting people there.

    but, just win baby…Go ‘Cats! Beat Michigan!

  • DanMan1976

    One of the best things you can do to support NU in advance of bowl selection is to visit the Facebook page and/or Twitter feed of the B1G partner bowls. They all have them now and an easy way to show enthusiasm from Cats fans is by leaving a message in support of NU. Let’s paint those pages purple!