Is it Sunday Yet? Projecting Northwestern’s Bowl Destination, and Tracing the Rules Confusion

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UPDATED Tuesday 11/27, 3:55 pm CT: Several commenters raised the possibility of Northwestern going to the Capital One Bowl even if Nebraska loses in the Big Ten Championship Game. I added some thoughts to address that possibility.

Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. All of the speculation, the rules parsing, will all come to an end on Sunday, when bowl selections are announced. Thank goodness for that.

Rules appear to be written in pencil. Involved parties (namely, bowls and conferences) provide conflicting information. And I am not talking about differing “interpretation.” I am talking about the rules saying one thing, and then one of the bowls saying the exact opposite, based on information they say they were told by the conference. And then, information circles right back around and gets flipped back to what you may have thought originally.

It is a very long, sorted explanation, which I will get to after going through the Wildcats’ bowl scenarios. (We will be posting later on this week what all of the professional guestimators project, once they all update their projections.)

First, as a refresher, a quick recap of the Big Ten’s Bowl tie ins for 2012…

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

Now on to the scenarios, which are presented in order of what I perceive to be the likelihood of each, and I take a stab at possible bowl opponents.

Scenario 1 – Northwestern to the Outback Bowl

This one is pretty straightforward. Nebraska beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska goes to the Rose Bowl, Michigan, at 8-4, goes to the Capital One Bowl, and Northwestern goes to the No. 3 Big Ten Bowl – the Outback Bowl in Tampa. The odds seem to favor this pick at this point. With the Capital One Bowl’s “interpretation” of the rules detailed below (and, according to the bowl, affirmed by the Big Ten), which they had said would allow them to select an 8-4 Michigan team over a 10-3 Nebraska team if Nebraska lost the Big Ten Championship Game, it’s clear they really want Michigan and are trying to do everything they can to get them.

Therefore, in this scenario, where Nebraska is out of the picture and on their way to Pasadena as the Big Ten Champs, and the Capital One Bowl is left with the choice of 8-4 Michigan and 9-3 Northwestern, I have a hard time seeing the Capital One Bowl passing on Michigan and taking Northwestern. (However, we do make a very compelling case for Northwestern-to-Orlando below.)

Now onto Northwestern’s possible SEC opponents in Tampa. The SEC has their own winding road of rules. To summarize, the Capital One Bowl has first pick after the BCS, regardless of division. After that, the Cotton Bowl has “the first preference of teams” from the SEC West and the Outback Bowl has “the first preference of teams” from the SEC East. However, if the bowl with preference for a division makes its chosen pick first, then the other bowl could select from that same division. In other words, the Cotton Bowl gets first pick from the SEC West, but the Outback Bowl can select an SEC West team after the Cotton Bowl makes their pick of an SEC West team. SEC selection order after that goes Chick-Fil-A Bowl, then Gator Bowl, and onward down the line.

So, given that understanding, here is how I see things playing out in the SEC… The SEC will be sending two teams to the BCS, the winner of the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia, and Florida. That is the maximum number of teams from any one conference allowed into the BCS. If that rule did not exist, it is conceivable that at some point we could have a B-S-E-C-S completely full of teams from the Southeastern Conference.

The loser of this weekend’s SEC Championship Game, either Alabama or Georgia, will likely spend New Year’s in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl. The Capital One Bowl could justifiable grab one of the hottest names in the sport, Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel) and Texas A&M, but my sense is they would take the loser of the SEC Championship Game, especially if it is Alabama. Of course, if it is Alabama to Cap One, that actually may slightly increase Northwestern’s chances at the Capital One Bowl instead of Michigan, because bowls generally try to avoid rematches (Alabama crushed Michigan 41-14 back in September), as can be seen in the tweet below from the Capital One Bowl. (And kudos to the Capital One Bowl for being extremely open about their process, and very responsive to inquiries from fans, journalists, and bloggers about that process. I would encourage you to follow them on Twitter @CapitalOneBowl).


@ Michigan/Alabama rematch not likely; Michigan/LSU definitely possible
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl

Of course, that is not a hard and fast rule, and matching up two A-plus brands in college football may be too hard to resist, and I could not really blame them if they went that direction.

The next three teams in the SEC after those top three are LSU, Texas A&M, and South Carolina, all three of which have identical records — 10-2 overall, 6-2 in conference. Either LSU or Texas A&M would be headed to the Cotton Bowl because of the Cotton Bowl’s “SEC West” preference stated earlier. Given the Cotton Bowl’s proximity to the Texas A&M campus (about a 3-hour drive) and John Manziel’s star power, I’d expect the Aggies to play in that game in Dallas.

So, that leaves LSU and South Carolina for the Outback Bowl. It is a bit of a toss up here. LSU is the higher ranked team in the BCS standings (7 vs. 10), probably should have beaten Alabama, and LSU beat South Carolina. South Carolina has the better win on their books, having beaten Georgia. Of course, that win came with a healthy Marcus Lattimore at running back, who later blew out his knee in late October.

Let’s dig back to our conversation from last week with Robert Shelton, Executive Director of the Fiesta Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, who said that injuries to key players are not usually a factor in team selection, “unless there is something really exceptional — a team that relies totally on one player and then that player sustains an injury and then he’s out for the season – I don’t think that factor comes into play in any significant way.” You could argue that Lattimore is that kind of player, but there is a ton more talent on that team, especially quarterback-nightmare-inducer JaDaveon Clowney.

Basically, it is a toss up between LSU and South Carolina as opponents, with a lean toward South Carolina out of the SEC East, given the Outback’s history of SEC East selections. Only once since 1997 has an SEC West team played in Tampa, Auburn in 2010, and we all know what happened in that game.

Scenario #2 – Northwestern to the Capital One Bowl

This would also start with a Nebraska win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Yes, Northwestern does have a better overall record than Michigan — 9-3 vs. 8-4. Yes, a Northwestern fan (and probably a Michigan fan if you shot him full of truth serum) would argue that Northwestern essentially won the game against Michigan, but for a freak tip on a downfield heave near the end of that game. Those are the standard kind of arguments. But let’s compare the two teams’ resumes, applying some of the criteria Robert Shelton told us the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl uses — win/loss record, quality of opponents/strength of schedule, fan excitement/performance vs. expectations, and bowl fatigue.

Win/Loss Record:

This one is crystal clear, as we just said in the previous paragraph. Northwestern 9-3, Michigan, 8-4.

Advantage: Northwestern

Quality of Opponents / Strength of Schedule:

Northwestern did play the easier schedule of the two teams, although Northwestern’s schedule is better than one might think. Yes, Michigan played potential national championship game entrants Alabama and Notre Dame out of conference, so they have to get the strength of schedule nod based on that. However, Northwestern was the only school to open the season with three straight wins vs. “BCS conference” schools, and two of the schools turned in solid campaigns… Syracuse still has an outside shot to win the Big East and earn a BCS slot, and Vanderbilt finished up 8-4, 5-3 in the SEC.

In the Big Ten, beyond the common opponents, Michigan played Ohio State and Purdue while Northwestern played Indiana and Penn State. Neither team played Wisconsin.

Advantage: Michigan

Fan excitement/Performance vs. Expectations:

Michigan began the year ranked No. 8 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls, with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. Then the Wolverines opened the season by getting embarrassed by the Crimson Tide, lost to the Fighting Irish, closed out with a loss to their hated rival Ohio State, and Denard Robinson got hurt mid-season. Three of their four losses were by a touchdown or more. I would say 8-4 was way below what the Wolverine faithful were hoping for.

Meanwhile, all three of Northwestern’s losses were heartbreakers, or, as Dr. Shelton said, “they’ve been in every game, even the ones they lost in the fourth quarter. That’s really a big plus for them.” Granted, Northwestern fans might not be happy with the way the three losses came about, but if you had told any Northwestern fan before the season began that this team would be 9-3, he or she would have signed for it right there on the spot. No votes in either of the preseason polls, and now No. 22 in the BCS rankings, No. 22 AP, and No. 20 in the Coaches Poll. I would say that is exceeding expectations.

Advantage: Northwestern

Bowl Fatigue:

Michigan ended a three-year bowl drought, their longest since the 1970s, with a 2011 Gator Bowl appearance that was followed up last year by a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Not much bowl fatigue here.

As we all know, Northwestern is on its best streak of consecutive bowl games in school history — this season will mark the fifth straight season of a Northwestern bowl appearance. However, we also all know that Northwestern has not won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl. Northwestern fans are hungry for a win, and would love a return trip to Orlando for the first time since the 1997 Citrus Bowl against Peyton Manning and Tennessee.

Advantage: Push

Of course, Michigan does have a much larger fan base, and they are one of the marquee names in college football. However, Northwestern has historically traveled very well to bowl games, despite the school’s relatively small size.

Bottom line — a very strong case can be made for Northwestern to be selected ahead of Michigan.

Also, from what we hear, there are some big fans of Northwestern inside the Capital One Bowl, and despite what some may think, there is not any kind of clear favoritism toward Michigan in Orlando, as can be seen in these tweets regarding Sunday’s deliberations in Orlando.


Lots of talk about Northwestern in the room at the moment, very complimentary of the ‘Cats.
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


Expected SEC debate to be our longest, but actually the Michigan/Northwestern conversation is getting the most traction
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl

As for the opponent, as I detailed above in the Outback Bowl Scenario, the opponent in the Capital One Bowl is likely to be the loser of the SEC Championship Game — Alabama or Georgia.

There is another possible, although not as likely, route to the Capital One Bowl, for the ‘Cats. If Nebraska loses in the Big Ten Championship Game to Wisconsin, the Capital One Bowl would be left with a choice of Nebraska or Northwestern. (The two loss/two win rule, which we explain in great detail below, would prevent the Cap One Bowl from selecting 8-4 Michigan over 10-3 Nebraska.) As some commenters pointed out, Nebraska played (and got crushed) in the Capital One Bowl last season, so there might be a “bowl fatigue” factor. However, I think it would be hard for them to turn down a 10-win team that travels incredibly well, and one who had only made the trip to Orlando once before last year (1990). There is also the “matchups” criteria that Dr. Shelton discussed, and it may be hard to deny the wattage that a Nebraska-Alabama or Nebraska-Georgia matchup would bring. Plus, the Capital One Bowl has a history of selecting teams repeatedly. Back when it was know as the Citrus Bowl, Tennessee played in the game 3 out of 4 years in the mid ’90s (including 1997 vs NU) prompting the famous Steve Spurrier quote – “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.” Michigan went to Orlando in 3 out of 4 years from 1999 to 2002, and Wisconsin went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.

Scenario #3 – Northwestern to the Gator Bowl

For Northwestern to possibly pay a visit to Jacksonville, Wisconsin would need to upset Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game. That would send Wisconsin to Pasadena, freeing up Nebraska for either a Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl berth. Based on the Indiana Jones-esque journey through bowl rules below, it appears that the Capital One Bowl would be bound to take Nebraska over Michigan, regardless of any preference for Michigan, and I think they would be inclined to select Nebraska over Northwestern, as explained above. The Outback Bowl would then be left to choose between Michigan and Northwestern. I’m not sure of what the choice would be here, as I know the Outback Bowl folks were very pleased with the excitement and turnout Northwestern brought to the game in 2010.

However, if the Outback Bowl did pick Michigan, Northwestern would land in Jacksonville. One could argue the opponent for Northwestern in the Gator Bowl would be much more favorable… Remember that the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will have chosen an SEC team before the Gator, and the Cotton Bowl will have selected earlier, so the Gator Bowl is a few more rungs down the pecking order for the SEC than it is for the Big Ten (#5 pick for SEC after BCS, #3 pick for Big Ten after BCS, plus the SEC is expected to send two teams to the BCS). Plus, there’s a big drop off in team quality just before the Gator Bowl’s pick of an SEC team. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A & M, and South Carolina would all likely be off the board, leaving a choice of 8-4 Mississippi State and 8-4 Vanderbilt. If NU winds up in Jacksonville, I’d be shocked if the pick here was Vanderbilt, which would be a rematch of the game back in September. Instead, expect Mississippi State here.

HOW DID WE GET HERE? THE WINDING ROAD OF BIG TEN BOWL RULES INTERPRETATION

Wow. What a wild few days in bowlland as every time I thought I had the final, correct answer, it slipped through my hands, like a search for that elusive Black Friday deal.

Let’s start at the beginning, and buckle up, because this is one bumpy ride…

As you may have read in my post last week, the Big Ten rules for the Capital One Bowl and Outback Bowl read as follows…

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

1. May select any eligible team after Rose Bowl Game/BCS except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses (in all games) than another eligible team.
2. Moving a 2nd Big Ten team up into the BCS does not affect these selection rules.

OUTBACK BOWL
1. May select any eligible team after Capital One Bowl except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses (in all games) than another eligible team.
2. Should a 2nd Big Ten team move up into the BCS, then the two-win/loss differential requirement is no longer applicable.

These rules came straight from a Big Ten Conference official. I then spoke to a representative at one of the bowls directly impacted by these rules, who said that it was as unclear if the Big Ten Championship Game would count within those rules, because they were written before the advent of that game. He said he was unsure and he deferred to the Big Ten. So, I reached back out to the Big Ten Conference official, and asked that exact question – do wins/losses in the Big Ten Championship Game count? I received the following reply:

A loss in the title game would count toward the two-loss differential section of the Capital One and Outback Bowl selection procedure, which is why it says “(in all games)” below.

;

OK, so we settled that piece of the puzzle. Then, to clarify the “two-win/two-loss” rule, I presented the exact scenario we discussed here on LTP last week, and explained it this way:

…Northwestern would finish 9-3 and Wisconsin would finish 8-5 after a loss in the Big Ten Championship Game [and a win over Penn State in the regular season finale]. That would obviously give Northwestern two fewer losses than Wisconsin, but only more win.

My interpretation of the rule, because it says “except a team that has two fewer wins OR two more losses (in all games) than another eligible team”, is that the Outback Bowl (or Capital One Bowl) would be bound to select Northwestern over Wisconsin, because of the two fewer losses, and the fact there is only a one win differential does not matter. But some folks have interpreted that Outback/Cap One would not be bound to select Northwestern, because Northwestern only would have one more win. Am I correct in my interpretation?

;

Here was the response:

Based on the below criteria, neither the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl could select an 8-5 team over a 9-3 team (since the 8-5 team would have two more losses).

;

As I wrote last week, “So, it’s an either/or scenario on the two fewer wins/two more losses exception and it includes ‘all games,’ meaning there is no distinguishing between conference and non-conference games and a loss in the Big Ten Championship Game is in play.”

So, that settles it right??? Wrong.

Our friend Teddy Greenstein, who covers NU for the Chicago Tribune, tweeted the following on Saturday, which led to the exchange below.


#Northwestern bowl update: It’s a 1-WIN, rule. So if Wisco finishes 8-5 after BT title game & NU is 9-3, Outback not compelled take Cats.
@TeddyGreenstein
Teddy Greenstein


@ when researching this for LTP, I asked this exact question of a B1G official-Was told no. Will include quote in next tweet.
@brettkurland
brettkurland


@ from B1G to me – “neither Cap One or Outback could select 8-5 team over 9-3 team (since 8-5 tm would have 2 more losses).”
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ OK, that contradicts what an official from a Big Ten bowl told me today. Mass confusion here.
@TeddyGreenstein
Teddy Greenstein


@ So confusing! DM me ur email and I can give more detail. I had actually talked to a bowl, who was unsure and sent me to B1G
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


RT @: @ tribune.com”>tgreenstein@tribune.com. But bowl rep in the know disputes what B1G person told you.
@TeddyGreenstein
Teddy Greenstein

This conversation obviously took place before Wisconsin’s loss to Penn State, so it is moot in that circumstance. However, it is still valid when trying to determine if the Capital One Bowl could select an 8-4 Michigan team over a 10-3 Nebraska team (if Nebraska were to lose to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game).

Is your head spinning yet? Well, the Capital One Bowl threw us for a loop with this exchange…


@ How would Wisconsin go to Orlando if they lose the B1G championship? Michigan would be second with 2 loses.
@whitgoblue32
whitney taylor


@ Our contract goes on overall wins. NU would be first with 9 but UM and UW would both have a strong case at 8.
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl

Wait a minute… That is only half of what we were told by the Big Ten. We had been told losses mattered too. So I inquired… Here are the relevant tweets from that exchange.


@ moot for this yr now, but B1G rules appear to say otherwise. Will send rule separately, but can you clarify for future?
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ rule from B1G: any team “except a team that has 2 fewer wins or 2 more losses (in all games) than another eligible team.”
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ Right, so wording is different but spirit is same: within one win of another team (another = best avail) is ok, but two isn’t
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


@ also, spoke to B1G official, who, when presented 8-5 vs 9-3 tms scenario, said Cap One & Outback could not take 8-5 over 9-3
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ That part we’d have to clarify on our end, since we just know what’s in writing…
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


@ …but typically that language is intended to protect CG teams for playing another game (and in our case, taking another L)
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


Michigan at 8-4 would be within one loss of Nebraska at 10-3. Contract is wins OR losses. H/T to @ for prompting clarification.
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


To restate it clearly: if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, we’d have a pick of Nebraska (10-3), Northwestern (9-3) and potentially Michigan (8-4)
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


@ Thx! But isn’t it “any eligible tm… except a tm that has 2 fewer wins OR 2 more losses than another eligible team”?….
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ ….So b/c UM would have 2 fewer wins, regardless of loss differential, wouldn’t u have to choose Neb? Thanks!
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ As we understand it, language was raised with league office and they agreed with the interpretation
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl

Oh boy. At this point, my brain was mush.

Then, finally, like stumbling onto that last box of Twinkies when you thought all of the stores in town had sold out of Hostess products forever, this came through Monday from Adam Rittenberg at ESPN.com…

;

After checking with the Big Ten office, I can confirm the following:

  • Both the Capital One and Outback bowls cannot select a Big Ten team with two fewer wins or two more losses than another eligible Big Ten team.

Therefore, if Nebraska loses to Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game, the Capital One Bowl could only select Nebraska (10-3) or Northwestern (9-3). Michigan would not be eligible because it has two fewer wins than Nebraska.

;

Yes!!! Back to where we started, our original understanding of the rule!

I contacted our friend at the Capital One Bowl, and he confirmed both what Adam wrote and what we’ve been saying all along…


@ Sorry, conflicting things sent from us at different times (Your Humble Tweeter’s mistake). What Adam has is right.
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl


@ So to be clear-Cap One couldn’t select 8-4 Mich over 10-3 Neb b/c Neb would have 2 more wins? And loss diff doesn’t matter?
@brettkurland
Brett Kurland


@ The language in Adam’s article is the most up-to-date and accurate.
@CapitalOneBowl
Capital One Bowl

I reached out to my contact at the Big Ten on Monday afternoon, and I am waiting to hear back to confirm everything. However, it appears that we can all take a deep breath, put our brains back together, and move on with our purple New Year’s plans.

Is it Sunday yet?

If You Thought Bowls Involved Politics…

LTP jumping in on the back-end of Brett Kurland’s post. WLS is reporting that Napoleon Harris, the ‘Cats star 2-sport player (football, basketball) is running to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacated spot in Congress. Check it out here.

;

  • Jason

    Terrific work! I’m always excited to read your analysis as it goes much more in depth than anywhere else I can find.
    I’m ready to go to Florida regardless of the opponent!

    • cece

      agree. looks like there is no way we end up in Arizona, right?

  • CMF

    Great work Brett. I am exhausted just reading all the work and back and forth you had to do on this. Assuming the interpretation of the 2 win OR 2 loss rule holds up, I can’t see up landing anywhere other than Capital One or Outback.

    1. Nebraska and Alabama win: NU ends up in Outback

    2. Nebraska and Georgia win: NU ends up in Capital One. Capital One passes on a Michigan vs. Alabama rematch and goes with a NU vs. Alabama game. Although in my opinion, they might be better served with a Michigan vs. A&M match-up.

    3. Wisconsin wins: NU ends up in Capital One. Capital one passes on Nebraska returning for a 2nd straight year after getting pummeled by South Carolina last year. Fears of Nebraska fans not wanting to travel back to Orlando coming off a deflating loss to Wisconsin when they had been been drooling over Pasadena for the past month.

    • http://twitter.com/RevDJEsq Chad

      On #2 — the CapOne could also go LSU-Michigan, which is a pretty stellar storyline in terms of Les Miles v. Michigan…..which means Alabama could conceivably fall pretty far — Cotton Bowl would be in a tough position between A&M and Bama, the Outback normally goes with an SEC East team (i.e. South Carolina), so Bama could fall as far as Chik-Fil-A.

      • CMF

        Good catch Chad – i forgot about the LSU vs. Michigan storyline.

  • NUOtter

    Can someone address the odds of the Gator Bowl choosing Michigan State over us if Wisconsin beats UNL in the championship game? Seems like a New Year’s bowl trip to Florida isn’t a guarantee.

    • CMF

      As I mentioned, I think the Gator Bowl in general is a long shot for us to end up with, but assuming we don’t end up in the Capital One or Outback, I really can’t see the Gator Bowl taking a 6-6 MSU or NU. Without stating all the obvious reasons NU should be selected, it would just flat out look really bad on the Gator Bowl committee to do such a thing. Plus, with the mild backlash that they took several weeks back when they didn’t mention NU as a possibility – it would make them look even worse. Off the top of my head, I am not aware of any bowls that have done such a thing in the past other than the extreme exception last year with Penn St falling due to the horrific scandal. I would put the odds at no greater than 3%.

      • CMF

        sorry for typo. “taking a 6-6 MSU OVER NU”

  • Snevik

    So, streamline this for me:
    Outback: Nebraska wins, Cap One will choose Michigan
    Cap One: Nebraska loses, Cap One doesn’t want Nebraska
    Gator: Nebraska loses, Cap one still chooses Nebraska, we get pushed down

    And BWW isn’t an option, because Wisky can’t reach us if we are the best team available?

    • NorCalCat

      BWW is still an option but I think a very slight one. Wisky would have to win the CCG, the Cap One bowl pick Neb over us, and the Outback pick Mich over us. At which point the Gator is not constrained by any won/loss record and could take MSU over us (or Minnesota for that matter). I think its pretty low odds they would take a 6-6 team over us, but things like that do happen. So yes the BWW is in play but a lot would have to happen.

  • Polymersci

    Nice work breaking down the seemingly impossible to decipher.
    Looking at the image on this post, did anyone comment on the second use of those awesome helmets? I have been longing for a wildcat on our helmets for years. The “Cat on the Hat” is great!
    Florida here we come! Go Cats.

  • GreenLantern411

    This is a tremendous writeup. I am what I would consider a college football and bowl selection nerd in the 90% percentile but you went and 99%-ed me here. Good work, I am excited about any and all possibilities. I think Georgia is the most overrated team in the country, so a Bama win plus a CapOne selection of the Cats would yield the best combination of national attention if get a win + odds of it possibly happening.

  • WildCat98

    Thanks, LTP & Brett, for your tireless work on the clarity of these beyond muddled rules! In any event, I’d like to add my two pennies worth and point out one more scenario (albeit unlikely, but stranger things have happened), and that is us in the BW3 Bowl.

    Wisc wins, goes to Rose Bowl.

    Nebraska to Capital One

    Michigan to Outback

    Since anything goes with respect to the 2 win/loss rule after the Outback, and since it was reported that Gator really doesn’t want us, and prefers brand name, it is conceivable that a 6-6 MSU team (with 5 B1G losses by a combined 13 points, blah blah blah story being played to the hilt) can jump us…unlikely, but you never know. And since Robert Shelton has been candid in saying BW3 Bowl would love to have NU, I can see some back room deal being reached. Again, unlikely, but since it’s all about the Benjamins, you never know.

    • Smolmania

      Traveling someplace warm without having to bring golf clubs is never a bad thing — and there’s a set of mine in Mom’s garage in Scottsdale. So, 98, I’m down with a trip to AZ!

  • CatAlum06

    Bring on the Capital One bowl- if we’re going to be underdogs no matter where we go, we might as well take on the biggest fish in the sea!

  • PurpleCatz

    I think we would match up pretty well with Miss St is there any chance we play them?

  • Sherman and Noyes

    Brett – thanks for the hard work putting all of this together. Impressive perseverance to get the correct information.

  • LondonAlum

    Great work, Brett, even though you have given me a bit of a headache!

    I hope the Cats go to the best possible bowl and beat the best possible team!

  • http://twitter.com/RevDJEsq Chad

    Maybe I’m overly optimistic (who, ME?) but I could see a scenario where we make the CapOne in the event of Wisconsin beating Nebraska.
    If Nebraska loses, then the CapOne can only select between Nebraska and Northwestern per the rules.
    Nebraska is coming off a loss in the B1G championship (disappointment/fans have already travelled, although this is a lesser concern because Husker fans are phenomenal and would travel again anywhere), and would be playing in Orlando for the 2nd year in a row (last year vs. South Carolina).
    By comparison, Northwestern would be 9-3, exceeding expectations, and would be making their first return visit to Orlando since 1997, where we sold very well and put on a great show in a game vs. Tennessee. The CapOne may look at the landscape and decide: “This may be our only chance in 15+ years to bring Northwestern to our bowl (let’s face it, it’ll be tough for NU to stay in the top 3 of the B1G consistently, as much as even I believe it to be a real possibility), we avoid repeating with Nebraska, and we still have a VERY strong SEC opponent (either Alabama or Georgia) who will be travelling and buying up tickets/getting eyeballs to tune in.”
    It’s an outside shot, admittedly. But one that we shouldn’t entirely dismiss.

    • CMF

      I think this is a very real possibility and also think Cap One would take NU over Nebraska for the same reasons. I would actually put this possibility as fairly high of happening – but I am probably one of the few who think that the Nebraska/Wisconsin game is more of a toss-up. These 2 teams are much more evenly matched despite their records. Nebraska pulled out a win in virtually every close conference game and Wisconsin managed to lose every close conference game. Wisconsin was even up on Nebraska 27-10 in the 3rd quarter at Lincoln before losing. I feel a bit torn because I truly think if Wisconsin wins, it will put NU in the better bowl (which I personally prefer) – plus I can’t stand Pelini so I would like to him lose, but I know it’s not a guarantee that we would end up in the Cap One and we could potentially slide to the Gator.

      • Brett Kurland

        You both raise great points, and I could definitely see a scenario where Northwestern would be picked ahead of Nebraska, especially if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten Championship Game by a large margin. I meant to include this in the post, and will go in and update. As Chad pointed out, Nebraska played in the Cap One Bowl last season, so there is the potential for a “bowl fatigue” factor. However, I think it would be hard for them to turn down a 10-win team that travels incredibly well, and one who had only made the trip to Orlando once before last year (1990). There is also the “matchups” criteria that Dr. Shelton discussed, and it may be hard to deny the wattage that a Nebraska-Alabama or Nebraska-Georgia matchup would bring.

        • Alaskawildcat

          The point made above that Michigan did not prove on the field that they are a better (and more to the point, competitive) team than us when we played them is huge and likely on Phillips’talking point list. When it comes to match up consideration that fact coupled with the fact Michigan was already embarrassed in its own SEC game this year may well take the shine off Michigan’s apple.

  • Brett Kurland

    I appreciate all of the comments and kind words… Thank you. As to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl question, yes, it is still technically a possibility, if Wisconsin beats Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game, but like most of you, I have a hard time seeing the Gator Bowl reaching down and grabbing a 6-6 Michigan State ahead of NU (or a 6-6 Minnesota or Purdue). If MSU was 7-5 I might feel a little different, but not likely. I think the Gator Bowl would just get pilloried if they grabbed a 6-6 school over a 9-3 Northwestern, given the attention they received about their perceived slight of NU during the season. Yes, they did pick a 6-6 team over a 9-3 squad last year, taking 6-6 Ohio State ahead of 9-3 Penn State, but that was obviously a very special circumstance, given what was going on at Penn State. (It also falls into the “it’s not just wins and losses” idea that Robert Shelton raised with us.) Plus, if you think about Dr. Shelton’s point about “fan enthusiasm” (as well as the other criteria), Northwestern crushes Michigan State in that category. When speaking to Michigan State fans, levels of disappointment and/or apathy are incredibly high.

    • Scooter

      Isn’t there a risk though that the Gator Bowl decides they really want Vanderbilt and picks MSU to avoid a rematch?

      • JM

        NU-Vandy might actually be a compelling rematch. The first game was competitive, and Vandy’s decision to dodge us in subsequent years (and our out-of-character frank response to that decision) adds a fresh storyline and layer of intrigue. Plus, the matchup of academic powers is a nice story for the Gator Bowl. On the downside, you are talking about the smallest fanbase in each conference, but both bases are probably psyched enough to travel well.

  • Flo44

    I think our O-line has been great this year. But is anyone else absolutely terrified of the prospect of them facing a pass rush from Jarvis Jones or Jadeveon Clowney?

  • VaWildcat

    Amazing work, makes me dizzy. But it leaves out one very important factor that few have mentioned this year–the amazing lobbying power of Dr. P. Hasn’t he been a factor in our selection in recent years? It seems likely that he would like to see us in the CapOne and that’s he’s putting on the hard sell as we speak. Wouldn’t surprise me to hear Orlando is our destination.

    Which is great with me as there are cheap flights to Orlando from here . . .

    • CMF

      WGN had Phillips on during the post game show after the NU/Illinois game on Saturday. He mentioned that as soon as he left the stadium, he was going to be on the phone making his sales pitch to the bowl committees.

  • Henry in CT

    NU goes to the third ranked bowl if Nebraska wins and to the fourth ranked bowl if Wisconsin wins. And BTW the Sagarin ranking system has Nebraska (#17), Michigan(#20), NU(#30) and Wisconsin(#32) in the correct order assuming Nebraska beats Wisconsin. Question – Which B1G team will be the biggest dog against Stanford or the three SEC opponents?

  • Drew

    My head hurts. All I want is a bowl win before I die.

  • CMF

    Current line is Nebraska -3 against Wisconsin.

  • DT

    Was reading Phil Steele’s stuff last night and assuming a Nebraska-Stanford Rose Bowl, he had NU in the Gator vs. Miss. State… Michigan-Georgia in the Cap One and Bucky vs. Spurrier in Tampa…

    • Brett Kurland

      According to the rules as they’ve been explained to us, Outback cannot select a 7-6 Wisconsin over 9-3 Northwestern. Applying either half of the two loss/two win rule, Outback would be compelled to take Northwestern over Wisconsin – NU has three fewer losses and they have two more wins.

      • DT

        Thanks, Brett. You do an outstanding job helping us further understand this byzantine world of bowls.. What caught me about Steele’s projection is that seemingly, it took place last night.. Not sure if he is intimating some horse trading or quid pro quo type stuff going on among bowls or what.. That said, was curious to read on his website nonetheless– thus why I commented…

        Again, appreciate your work and explanation..

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Northwestern0000
Wisconsin0000
Minnesota0000
Nebraska0000
Purdue0000
Iowa0000
Illinois0000

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Indiana0000
Maryland0000
Michigan0000
Michigan State0000
Ohio State0000
Penn State0000
Rutgers0000