As an athlete, you want to play and compete against the best. The key word there is the latter, compete.
The Northwestern Wildcats are coming off a successful regular season where they went 9-3 and really were only a few plays from being undefeated.
What if Venric Mark doesn’t return the punt of a touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions but instead the Wildcats have a nice scoring drive to rest their defense?
What if Ibrahim Campbell or Chi Chi Ariguzo picked one of Taylor Martinez‘s late passes to secure a win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers?
What if Daniel Jones bats the ball farther away or even interferes with the Michigan Wolverines Roy Roundtree?
Those are a lot of “ifs” but not unrealistic when you go back and look at each game. Unfortunately though, it seems to have Northwestern fans feeling overconfident coming into bowl season.
Right now, the Wildcats look to be jockeying for either the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando or the Outback Bowl in Tampa. While both are good bowls, there is a feeling among many in college football that the Cap One is the “best” non-BCS game. It normally pits two teams that were on the cusp of getting to one of the BCS games.
If those scenarios above went in Northwestern’s favor, than they probably would have been playing in one of those games. However, they didn’t and now we are stuck at a fork in the road. How this bowl selection process plays out will soon determine the Wildcats fate and how the 2012 season is remembered for years to come.
I’m not sure that many casual fans realize the difference in these two games. If Northwestern goes to the Capitol One Bowl there’s a good chance they’ll take on either the loser of the SEC Championship game, the LSU Tigers or perhaps even the Florida Gators.
These are all teams that are loaded with NFL talent that, quite frankly, would blast Northwestern. Remember the 2010 Cap One game where a very good Michigan State Spartans team was blasted by the Alabama Crimson Tide and Heisman winner Mark Ingram, 49-7?
Yes, I know this is a different year but this top tier is likely to produce the same result. That’s why I want to see the Wildcats head to Tampa to battle in the Outback Bowl.
First, they’d played an epic game with the Auburn Tigers that would be talked about all the way up to the bowl game and while it wasn’t the results Pat Fitzgerald‘s guys wanted, it was as dramatic as you can get.
Secondly, the matchups would be much more manageable. One would match the ‘Cats with the South Carolina Gamecocks, who are without star running back Marcus Lattimore. While that defense is still outstanding, they don’t have the vertical passing game to offset his loss.
The other possibility is the Texas A&M Aggies. Obviously, phenom Johnny Manziel comes to mind and his video game like performances. Northwestern does tend to struggle against mobile quarterbacks, so that matchup would likely cause a couple problems.
Either matchup has plenty of juicy story lines that the media would soak up and the game itself is on ABC which instantly makes your casual viewership rise.
The Northwestern coaching staff would also be able to use another motivational tactic, something along the lines of finishing the job. No one would be able to call your bowl win “cheap” either.
Let “media darling” Michigan get smacked by one of the SEC powers. They can fawn over Denard Robinson when it’s 24-0 at half.
Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since 1949. It isn’t giving in to get the best matchup for your team. The Wildcats don’t have to be the whipping boy any longer.
Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts!