UPDATING ALL DAY – Bowling for Northwestern – The Final Analysis and Northwestern Bowl Destination Open Thread

UPDATED Sunday 12/2, 1:10 pm CT: ESPN reporting Nebraska to Capital One Bowl, Northwestern likely to Gator Bowl. New post here with details as they story develops.

UPDATED Sunday 12/2, 12:27 pm CT: Added Stewart Mandel tweet suggesting Texas A &M may not be Capital One Bowl-bound.

UPDATED Sunday 12/2, 12:02 pm CT: Added @ESPN_BigTen tweet regarding Nebraska still being “very much in play” for Capital One Bowl. Also added release of final regular season AP and Coaches polls.

UPDATED Sunday 12/2, 11:01 am CT: Added Phil Steele’s projection of Northwestern to Gator Bowl.

I have to confess… Of all of the scenarios I considered, this is one I definitely did not foresee — Wisconsin absolutely waxing Nebraska in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game 70-31.

Let me say that again.


And you could argue that it was not even that close!!! Heck, it was 42-10 at halftime! Sheesh. Just unbelievable. I am still in shock.

This definitely changes my perspective on what will happen today, as I never conceived of this total annihilation. I think the headline on the front page of the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star’s website late Saturday night says it all — “One B1G Nightmare.”

I will leave the analysis of that game to others (two Wisconsin running backs rushed for over 200 yards!!!), and just jump straight to the bottom line implication for Northwestern… I think this puts the ‘Cats in prime position for the Capital One Bowl. And Teddy Greenstein at the Chicago Tribune agrees…

My best bowl source puts it at 75% that the Cap One will select #Northwestern over Nebraska.


Teddy Greenstein

So does SI.com’s Stewart Mandel, who posted his final bowl projections late night Saturday. He put Northwestern into the Capital One Bowl against Texas A&M. (More on the potential opponent in a bit, as well as Stewart’s update early Sunday afternoon that A & M may drop down.)

However, @ESPN_BigTen (the combined Twitter account of Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett) tweeted late Sunday morning that, according to their source, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Nebraska.

Potential shakeup with Cap One selections. Both Georgia and Nebraska very much in play, according to a source



I just have a hard time seeing how the folks in Orlando could pick Nebraska over Northwestern at this point, a deflated Nebraska that just got completely obliterated by Wisconsin, a team that finished in third place in its division with a .500 conference record (remember, Ohio State and Penn State both were ahead of Wisconsin in the standings, but were ineligible). Bowls typically prefer teams with momentum, not teams who end their season with a giant thud by getting totally embarrassed on national television in their conference championship game.

Couple that with Nebraska’s punishing 63-38 defeat at the hands of Ohio State earlier this season, and, if nothing else, I would be nervous if I was the Capital One Bowl that Nebraska would get obliterated by the top-level SEC opponent they would face — likely Texas A&M or Georgia. Nebraska plain did not show up, and for the second time this season. If I was a bowl exec, I’d be terrified this could happen again in my game.

Last week, a member of our LTP community pointed out another factor going against Nebraska — they lost a lopsided Cap One Bowl just last season to South Carolina, 30-13. At that point, I thought the Capital One Bowl would still lean toward Nebraska if the Huskers lost on Saturday, but now with such a punishing defeat, I think the scales have tipped to Northwestern. NU has not been to Orlando since 1997, and is fired up to go back. And remember this – while Nebraska has now had their doors blown off twice this season, Northwestern was in every game they played this year, and just barely lost by 1 to Nebraska.

Going back to the criteria Robert Shelton, Executive Director of the Fiesta Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl shared with us, the one thing that changed here is “Fan excitement,” with a bit more weighting on the “bowl fatigue” factor. Could you imagine the mindset of a Nebraska fan right now? Would you want to hop a plane to Orlando and see that team play??? Even if Orlando is the Happiest Place on Earth? Especially if they were just there last year?

Another factor to consider, not that polls matter much at this juncture, but its a good data point – Northwestern outranks Nebraska in both the AP and Coaches polls that were released Sunday. Northwestern is No. 17 in the Coaches, No. 21 in the AP. Nebraska dropped to No. 21 Coaches and No. 23 AP. And a good side note for Northwestern – in the Coaches Poll, which does not include banned-from-postseason-play Ohio State, the Wildcats are the highest ranked Big Ten team. Michigan is five spots back of NU at No. 22. In the AP Poll, the Buckeyes are up to No. 3, and Michigan is two spots ahead of Northwestern at No. 19.

As for those of you saying “wait – the Cap One Bowl could select Michigan.” No, they cannot.

As we have detailed in depth a few times over the last week, the Cap One Bowl, by rule, cannot select an 8-4 Michigan squad over 10-3 Nebraska, because Michigan has two fewer wins than Nebraska. Both the conference and the Capital One Bowl publicly confirmed this last week. So, if Nebraska’s not the choice for the Capital One Bowl, it would have to be Northwestern. Of course, in the world of bowls, nothing is ever certain until its certain. But if the rules are followed, without any waivers or anything else, then Michigan has no chance at the Capital One Bowl.

Now, we all know bowls are nothing if not unpredictable. So, yes, there is a chance Cap One does take Nebraska. In that case, it would be up to the Outback Bowl to select between Michigan and Northwestern. Given what Teddy Greenstein reported earlier this week, I gotta think Outback would pick NU, unless they were just being overly polite in their description of the Wildcats.

CBS’ Jerry Palm posted his final projections late Saturday night, and he sees Northwestern indeed headed to Tampa for the Outback Bowl, ahead of Michigan, with Nebraska on its way to Orlando.

Based on my estimation, and the estimation of just about everybody out there, the lowest spot Northwestern could find itself is the Gator Bowl. The Orlando Sentinel projects Northwestern to Jacksonville, to take on Vanderbilt. I think that’s an unlikely scenario, as I just don’t see a bowl staging a Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt rematch. (Note that this is not the same Orlando Sentinel projection we’ve been following all along. This projection comes from Brant Parsons, their Digital Community Manager for sports. As of this writing very early Sunday morning, Matt Murschel, the Sentinel’s national college football writer we’ve been following for the last several weeks, has not yet posted updated projections. Recall that he was the only projector last week who picked NU to Capital One.)

Phil Steele updated his projections Sunday morning, and he too projects Northwestern to the Gator Bowl, against Mississippi State. He has Nebraska in the Capital One, Michigan in the Outback. He projected NU to Gator Bowl last week too, but he had Nebraska going to Rose Bowl and Wisconsin to Capital One, a scenario that we explained couldn’t happen (a 7-6 Wisconsin team could not have gone to Cap One over 9-3 NU).

On the Big Ten Network’s Big Ten Championship Game postgame show Saturday night, Tom Dienhart also placed Northwestern in the Gator, with Nebraska in the Capital One and Michigan in the Outback. Oddly, after sharing his picks, Dienhart then said “You could see Nebraska and Michigan get flipped there,” suggesting Michigan could wind up in the Capital One Bowl. So, either he misspoke, misread the rules, or knows something we don’t know about some kind of rules waiver or something else that would allow Michigan to trump Nebraska for the Capital One slot.

Big picture – just when we think there might be some kind of consensus and clarity emerging, it’s clear that nothing is clear.

Back to the Capital One Bowl, for whom I still think Northwestern is their most sensible pick… it appears Texas A&M is the favorite to represent the SEC. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports Texas A&M to Orlando is pretty much a done deal.

Not official until Sunday, but Johnny Football’s going to Disney World. Capital One Bowl will pick Texas A&M


Brett McMurphy

Makes sense. There’s a fever in college football right now. Johnny Football Fever. And the only prescription? More Johnny Football. (h/t to this classic SNL skit for my inspiration on that line.) The Cap One Bowl cannot resist the opportunity to be the stage for Johnny Football’s glowing star. And who can blame them? I had originally thought the Cap One Bowl would still go with the SEC Championship Game loser, but the more I have seen and read, and the more I have thought about it, this pick makes a ton of sense and I cannot really argue with it that much.

One little curveball though, on the opponent, if indeed the Capital One Bowl feels compelled to take Northwestern over Nebraska. As Wildcats fans all remember, Northwestern played Texas A&M last year in a the Meineke Car Care Bowl. So, would the Capital One Bowl be resistant to stage a bowl game rematch, concerned fans might not be excited to travel to a matchup they saw just one year ago? It is possible, and if so, I would figure on Georgia here, but I think it is pretty unlikely. Johnny Football is such a draw, Texas A&M has never been to the Capital One Bowl, and Nebraska right now could not be lower, so, in trying to be totally objective, I think Northwestern vs. Texas A&M makes the most sense.

Plus, it sounds like Georgia may be headed elsewhere. Reports started circulating late Saturday that Georgia is Arlington-bound for the Cotton Bowl. (As an aside, this would actually be in conflict with the SEC’s bowl rules, which give the Outback Bowl first choice of SEC East teams after the Capital One Bowl makes their selection, if I am reading things correctly. The Cotton Bowl has first pick of SEC West teams. If I’m interpreting things correctly, the Outback Bowl would have to essentially yield their selection to the Cotton Bowl for this to happen, or the SEC would need to grant the Cotton Bowl some kind of waiver.)

However, Stewart Mandel tweeted early Sunday afternoon that there could be some last minute changes in SEC country…

Some serious 11th-hour maneuvering going on w/ SEC bowl lineup. Sounds like A&M slipped from expected Cap One to Chick-fil-A overnight.


Stewart Mandel

(We’ve been having a periodic embedded tweet problem. If you see the words “There was a problem connecting to Twitter,” click on this link to see it –https://twitter.com/slmandel/status/275303921067646976)

When will we know for sure?

The Capital One Bowl tweeted earlier this week that they generally hold their announcements until after the 7:30 p.m. CT BCS Selection Show. That could change this year, so keep your ears and eyes open (and we will too). This final run up to the announcements can be a steady avalanche of information, so please let us know if you see or hear anything. We are posting this very late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. We will continue to update throughout the day as more projections are posted and as we gather more information.

We also want to ask you – Where do you think Northwestern is headed? We invite you to share you thoughts in the comments below.

  • cdmarine

    Nebraska fans will travel in big numbers whether they’re feeling demoralized or not. The bowl guys know this. Fan involvement probably still leans Nebraska. The only real question is how they’ll perceive the significance of this beatdown at the hands of Wisconsin. A lopsided score like that for a team that’s generally been perceived to be strong could be seen as a fluke, and so not a great indicator of performance at the bowl. Or, they could look at that performance and see an overrated team that’s just been unmasked. It all really comes down to that, I think. I’m not confident Northwestern comes out on top of that calculation, given how strongly Nebraska fans travel. I’d like to see it happen, though. I’d love a TAMU rematch.

    • VaWildcat

      No fluke, unless flukes come in 2s — OSU clobbered UNL earlier in the year. As for travelling well, they sold only half their allotment for the B1G CCG. Surely “bowl guys know this.”

      • jpklock

        On the other hand, they might not care: I could understand a bowl matchmaker deciding to put Manziel’s TAMU up against UNL, even expecting that it’ll be a mismatch. Sort of a schadenfreude move…

    • NULabMonkey

      Yeah, Nebraska fans actually might play against the Huskers in the selection process this year. They failed to sell almost HALF of their Big Ten Championship allotment and FAILED to sell out their allotment of 12,500 for last year’s capital one bowl. If I’m on the bowl-selection committee, I’d be operating under the assumption that NEITHER NU will sell out their allotments, and I’d be focused on other factors to inform a final decision.

      Call me cynical, but I think it’ll come down to BCS ranking: Nebraska to Cap One, Michigan/NU to Outback/Gator.

    • Snevik

      Are you basing this on the B1G Championship game, where they sold just over 50% of their allotment, or the Capital One Bowl last year, where they sold just over 75% of their allotment. Or entirely on reputation and off the top of your head?

  • cmcontreras

    There are already so many Chicagoans and Illinoisians in Florida. A day trip to Orlando would be a welcome mini vacation! Go NU! Welcome!

  • NUMBalumDave

    Lordy, my eyes are spinning. The old cynic in me has most bowls hatin’ on Willie, just ‘a’cause. I say Gator.
    I’d love to go back to Orlando, though. It was the last time I ran across Otto Graham, so it just feels right to go back.

  • Self serving

    NU vs. Georgia or Florida in a Outback would be great.

    • byebyefitz95

      Florida is going to the Sugar. The whole world has known this for a week now.

  • Rooge

    Excellent analysis of the alchemy of bowl selection. In all the scenarios, the most direct path to Orlando was a Wisconsin victory. After last night’s beat down, I cannot imagine the Capital One committee selecting Nebraska. Plus, NU vs TA&M is good ink. Johnny Football, Pat Fitzgerald..it’s the Everything That Is Right About College Football Bowl–especially in Orlando. And don’t underestimate the amazing rhetorical skills of Jim Phillips.

  • timc

    Tribune projects NU-TAMU in the Cap 1. From Tannehill to Johnny Football. Tough task. Really would rather face South Carolina. Nice one Huskers.

  • jpklock

    WestLotPirates had a great tweet last night, directed towards the @NUFBFamily account: “Nebraska just got crushed! What are you doing next? I’m going to Disney World!”

    So, I guess they’re agreeing with Teddy’s “75%” estimation…

  • CatsInflorida

    Cotton doesn’t want aggies because no travel dollars if aggies come to Dallas

    Cotton and cap probably agreed on this deal

  • Ctcatsfan

    I’m hoping for Capitol one first and foremost for viewership and exposure. People will want to see Johnny football and I believe they will see an electric NU team and qb’s in Colter/Siemian. This bowl will help our program the most if we win or it is close.

    • CMF

      I am already fired up thinking about it. Can we strap it up next week?

  • cece

    oh my head hurts. wait, that was from last night’s party. no it’s from this spinning story. no chance we go to Arizona, right? just want to get on the computer, hit the Florida button, and fly on down to the ‘Cats! Go ‘Cats!!!!!!

  • cece

    Tom Fuessel welcome to the NU family! especially great to finish runner-up in Class 7A for Lincoln Way East, and your QB smarts will certainly help NU.

  • Jimgocats93

    Now there are predictions for Cap1 w/ Johnny Football – come on!!!! I said let’s play anywhere as long as we don’t have a Heisman Candidate QB or 1st round pick receivers.
    Last time we went to Orlando I believe we got to watch Peyton Manning…….good Lord!


    • No risk, no reward. If there is one thing Fitz’s teams have proven in bowl games is that they will be prepared. I am not worried about getting blown out… unless it is Georgia. A&M is beatable, remember they lost twice this year and that celebrated Alabama game they blew a 20-point lead and nearly lost that game.

  • vaudvillain

    I feel like the Outback went from our most likely destination to our least likely destination. Pretty sure the Cap One will pick us over Nebraska — but if they don’t, I think the Outback will take Michigan, dropping us to the Gator.

  • Cletown Joe

    If the Cap One is worried about lack of interest in a NU v A&M bowl rematch I don’t think the result will be replacing the Aggies with Georgia. The more likely switch given the draw of Manziel would be on the Big Ten side. So it would come down to their worry over a rematch vs their worry of selecting a team that just got crushed. I think Evanston NU is less of a concern over Lincoln NU.

  • Evan

    An NU vs. Texas A&M rematch of last year would be awesome! I think NU would be fired up for this rematch especially since a win would make Coach Fitz the winningest coach in NU history. Go Cats!

  • skepticat

    As much as Wisconsin left no doubt about who the better team was last night and earned the win when it mattered most, have say it’s a bit annoying to see a 7-5 (well, now 8-5) team go to the Rose Bowl. Talk about lack of marquee wins (other than the championship game itself). Gotta think that, you swap out the name “Wisconsin” for “Northwestern”, a lot of the haters in the comments section would be changing their underwear for a clean pair if they found themselves 8-5, Rose Bowl-bound, Big Ten champions.

    That said, looks like we’ll be playing just as tough of an opponent, and we’ll certainly have just as much to prove. Personally I was/am hoping for Outback to draw a more manageable opponent, but if you’re aspiring to be champions, you gotta be able to beat the best they throw at you. I’m hoping the stars are aligning for Fitz to break the bowl streak and claim the record for winningest coach in one stroke, but regardless of the outcome, we’ll certainly know where our program stands in relation to the big boys come the afternoon of January 1st.

    • zeek

      If Wisconsin wins the Rose Bowl, it’ll be a lot better than their losses the past two years.

      So let’s just wait and see what happens; the build up will be annoying to be sure, but the result isn’t definite yet…

      • skepticat

        Agreed. Not saying Wisconsin doesn’t stand a chance, and I think they probably match up pretty well against Stanford.

        But if the point of the championship game and the Rose Bowl is to crown and reward the best team among those eligible, yesterday’s game fell far short of that goal, IMO. There are two teams with better records (both in-conference and overall) than Wisconsin that I’m sure would’ve welcomed a rematch with Nebraska, but didn’t get that chance due solely to arbitrary division alignments. I’d be totally in favor of permanently ditching the divisions and having the championship game simply match the 2 best eligible teams in the conference (which would’ve made it a Nebraska-Michigan rematch), but I don’t think NCAA rules allow this.

        Then again, the BCS/bowl world we live in has never been about fairness or rewarding the best teams. So do what you can, take what you can get.

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    Regarding the vaunted “Husker fans travel well” notion (attendance at Ryan Field back in October not withstanding), a couple of newspaper articles that would point the arrows more so in Northwestern’s favor to go to Orlando on 1/1/13:

    * Nebraska’s athletics dept sold just 7,800 of their 15,000 allotment for yesterday’s B1G game in Indy: http://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/life-in-the-red/huskers-sell-from-their-ticket-allotment/article_53be4aa6-39a8-11e2-bd5f-001a4bcf887a.html

    * And here’s a story from last December 22 where Neb had only sold 8,100 of its 12,500 CapOne Bowl tix at that point, with a quote from the Neb ticket office saying “Fans have told us flights are too costly. That would be our biggest problem.”: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/bowls/story/2011-12-22/ticket-sales-hit-surprising-rough-spots/52170064/1

    • skepticat

      And not that there wasn’t way too much red in the stands for our game, but I also think the Nebraska numbers for that game have been wildly exaggerated. Fill in the normally empty seats on the “visitor’s” side, end zone, and upper deck, and you’ve got your Nebraska crowd. NU fan attendance appears to have been consistent throughout the season. So taking the South Dakota game as the low point (28,641), subtract a couple thousand for the handful of SD fans that were there, then subtract that from the stadium capacity (47,130 or 49,256, depending on where you look), and you get about 55%-45% NU-Nebraska.

      The problem is that the TV cameras, as do most NU fans, sit on the “home” side and see nothing but the sea of visitors on the opposite side of the stadium, while getting no idea of how much purple is present on their side. Add in the fact that Nebraska fans actually _cheer_ during critical moments of the game, including pounding on the seats or ground (or whatever they did) to make the stadium rumble, and yeah, Ryan Field can turn into a pretty hostile environment when large numbers of opposing fans show up.

      The more fundamental problem, of course, is it appears NU fans are only filling up just over half the stadium.

  • Taylor C.

    Does anyone know what time Northwestern will announce what bowl game we are going to?

  • tom dienhart has absolutely no respect for northwestern. all he ever talks about are all the great players on state schools, yet he never mentions comparable players on NU

  • David

    Lost in all the bowl speculation is the fact that there is a high probability that NU will be the highest ranked B10 team in the BCS…who would have guessed.

  • Brett Kurland

    I just updated the post to add the following, after Phil Steele posted his projections this morning…

    Phil Steele updated his projections Sunday morning, and he too projects Northwestern to the Gator Bowl, against Mississippi State. He has Nebraska in the Capital One, Michigan in the Outback. He projected NU to Gator Bowl last week too, but he had Nebraska going to Rose Bowl and Wisconsin to Capital One, a scenario that we explained couldn’t happen (a 7-6 Wisconsin team could not have gone to Cap One over 9-3 NU).

  • KY Wildcat

    I want LSU one of the FL bowls, any of the FL bowls because my little brother went to LSU (and LSU Med Sch) and this would be the family matchup of the century…’course we’d need to fit the entire team with flak jackets…

    • Stephen Zgrabik

      My sister went to LSU, so I’d be down for this as well.

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    Coaches poll is out. Northwestern is the highest ranked B1G team.

    NU – 17
    Neb – 21
    Mich – 22
    Wis – 23

  • HDB

    Who would have thought in August that NU would be the top ranked Big team at the end of the regular season. Coach’s ranking of NU at 17 with Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin behind us is awesome. Go Cats!

  • Wildcat86

    According to ESPN B1G bloggers UNL still very much alive in Cap One debate. To be honest, if GA is playing in the Cap One, I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t get picked. They’re on another level.

    @ESPN_BigTen: Potential shakeup with Cap One selections. Both Georgia and Nebraska very much in play, according to a source

    • Pittsburgh Wildcat

      UGA-Nebraska matchup would have some pretty good cache nationally and definitely one the Cap One folks would have to consider, even despite Neb getting throttled last night.

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    New AP poll just released:

    Ohio State – 3
    Mich – 19
    Northwestern – 21
    Neb – 23
    PSU – RV (26th)
    Wisc – RV (28th)

  • Brett Kurland

    I just added latest poll rankings as well as tweet from Rittenberg/Bennett saying Nebraska and Georgia still “very much in play” for Capital One Bowl.

  • zeek

    I’ll take anything over a rematch with Vanderbilt. What in the world do we gain by playing against them again?

    It’s really hard beating a team twice (see Nebraska-Wisconsin and Stanford-UCLA).

    There’s nothing to be played by playing the worst brand in the SEC.

    Give me Miss. State or someone else any day of the week if it’s Gator.

  • VaWildcat

    Just saw this projection on ESPN. NU vs. Vanderbilt in the Gator? Ugh. What a horrible idea. http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8701557/2012-13-bowl-projections

    • Snevik

      Also shows he’s not really thinking. They would just take Miss St at that point, and avoid the rematch. Obviously Vandy fans have no interest in seeing their team play NU, or they would have had them come to Nashville.

  • CatInTheHat

    Interesting that the Outback seems to be souring on NU at the 11th hour. Wonder if they think the Cap One will take us or if they’re being seduced by Michigan and their fan base. The gorilla in the room that nobody is talking about is the fact that, as the Gator rises up the “likely” list, so does B-Dubs…

    • NorCalCat

      I find it hard to believe that the Gator would bypass us for a 6-6 Mich St team. Not that it won’t happen, I just don’t see it, especially with us being ranked in both polls. I really like the Gator Bowl matchup with Miss St if we do fall that far.

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    Rittenberg/Bennett tweet just now: “Cap One pick basically done: Georgia-Nebraska. Expect Michigan to Outback and Northwestern to Gator. B1G avoids Johnny Football.”

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    Starting to look like what we thought maybe 2-3 weeks ago: ‘Cats vs. Miss State in Gator. A Jan 1 bowl game against a beatable SEC foe. I’d take that (or Pasadena of course) every single year.

  • CM

    Rittenberg/Bennett reporting that Big Ten leadership stepped up to prevent Nebraska (as CCG game loser) from falling too far in bowl line-up. What’s the difference between Outback and Cap One for Nebraska??? If that’s the case, I would expect Dr. Phillips to be livid with Jim Delany.

  • CM

    Unbelievable. If Nebraska wants to get OBLITERATED by a 7-5 team in the CCG, that’s their prerogative. Why the hell does the conference feel the need to protect them from the Outback bowl? Unreal.

  • Brett Kurland

    Conversation continues here, where we share official word of Nebraska to Capital One Bowl, reports of Northwestern to Gator Bowl -http://www.laketheposts.com/index.php/2012/12/breaking-espn-reports-nebraska-to-capital-one-bowl-northwestern-likely-to-gator-bowl/

  • l p

    Outback picked Michigan. They travel better. That leaves us with Gator.