Cats still have hope they aren’t bowled over (Up Close)

Tania Ganguli and Tania Ganguli

The Northwestern football team’s seniors might have played their last college game on Saturday. Although the Wildcats became bowl-eligible with their sixth win, they aren’t guaranteed of a bowl game.

But if the bowl situation matches up just right they’ll get one more game.

“Now we just sit and wait and hope for the best,” offensive lineman Zach Strief said. “At least now we know that getting bowl eligible was up to us and we got it done.”

As the Wildcats ran over Illinois, their bowl outlook got a little help from Michigan, who took on the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor, Mich. After beating Ohio State, the Wolverines became the Big Ten champions and accepted a Rose Bowl bid.

The Rose Bowl is the Bowl Championship Series game that gets to choose which Big Ten team it wants first. There are seven bowls that choose from Big Ten teams. The Motor City Bowl, NU’s only bowl option, chooses seventh.

Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin will probably be chosen above NU. But if one of the BCS bowls invites Ohio State, that could open up a spot for the Wildcats.

“It’s going to be hard not to put Ohio State in a BCS game with two losses, and they’re the national champs,” NU coach Randy Walker said. “I don’t know, I would take them.”

That spot will most likely be in the Motor City Bowl on the day after Christmas, in Detroit. Not exactly the warm winter break the Cats were hoping for, but they’ll take it.

“I sure haven’t (been to Detroit), but I know Ashton Aikens so I can imagine,” running back Jason Wright joked about the injured Cats wide receiver from Detroit. “Anyone that wants us, I’ll go play.”

The Motor City Bowl will also choose a Mid-American Conference team, most likely Miami, Marshall, Bowling Green, Toledo or Northern Illinois.

The Big Ten season is over, but which bowls Big Ten teams go to is still up in the air. For example, whether or not Ohio State gets a BCS berth depends on if other ranked teams like Southern California and Louisiana State win their last games. It also depends on how those teams’ opponents fare because strength of schedule is part of the BCS equation.

Walker said that regardless of the BCS gymnastics it will take for a bowl to invite NU, his team deserves a chance for a postseason game.

“I don’t care what anybody says, they deserve it,” Walker said. “We are not going to back into anybody’s bowl. We deserve to go there and we’re playing as good as a whole bunch of teams are right now.”

If they do, the Cats won’t have to spend all of their winter breaks at home.

“It’s just rough sitting at home and watching all the bowl games and knowing, ‘Man, I need to be there.'”

Last Wednesday Michigan native Noah Herron said that the one thing that gives a team the spark they need to feel passionate about football is going to a bowl game. Detroit isn’t home for him, so going there would be great for the running back.

“Anything is better than going home for Christmas,” he said.