How will Kain Colter fare against the Georgia Bulldog defense? Can the Cats win a shootout against Texas AM? Can the Cats compete with some of the top BCS teams? These are all questions that will have to wait till next year. From what looked to be a very promising bowl game, the Cats will head to the Gator Bowl to take on an 8-4 Mississippi State team that lost three of their last four games. All signs were pointing to a marquee matchup in the Outback or Capital One Bowl, but the ever all mighty Jim Delany stepped in. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Capital One Bowl wanted the Cats, but Delany stepped in and pressured them to take the Cornhuskers. This is the same Cornhuskers team that was embarrassed in Indianapolis by the 8-5 Wisconsin Badgers, the same team that was embarrassed in the Capital One Bowl last year. Sure the Huskers beat the Cats earlier this year in a last second “miracle” victory, but the Cats are a much more rounded team that competed in every game. The Cats are riding high right now, while the Huskers are fading fast.
While it’s embarrassing the stunt Delany pulled to make sure Northwestern didn’t go to the Big 10’s second best bowl, this is what’s best for the program. The Cats haven’t won a bowl game since 1948. Mississippi State gives them a legitimate chance to get the “monkey” off their back. Winning this bowl game is the first step in building the program Coach Fitz envisions. He has made great strides in turning what was once the laughing stock of the Big 10 in to one of the Big 10’s elite teams. But, until they win a bowl game, others around the country won’t take them seriously. Just this past week, Steve Spurrier was asked about the prospects of playing Northwestern in their bowl compared to Michigan. He responded by saying “If you beat or you get beat by Northwestern, you don’t achieve as much as playing Michigan with their stature, tradition, and reputation.” He’s not the only coach who feels this way about the Cats. With a win on Jan 1st against Mississippi State, the Cats should be a top 20 team heading in to next year. With a nice early start, we could see the Big Ten game of the year with two top 15 teams squaring off at Ryan Field with the Buckeyes coming to town. Win that game, and the Cats will have the respect of everyone all over the country. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Step 1 is to take care of business on Jan 1st and get that first bowl victory!