The Northwestern Wildcats are headed to New York for the holidays to take on the Pitt Panthers at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Northwestern will take on Pitt in the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 28.
— #B1GCats Football (@NUFBFamily) December 4, 2016
The Wildcats made a bowl game for the sixth time in Pat Fitzgerald’s 10 years. It is the team’s second consecutive bowl game — just the sixth time in school history. Northwestern barely made bowl eligibility, getting the team’s sixth win in the finale against Illinois.
The Wildcats’ reward is a Christmas in New York, where there is a large Northwestern alumni base, but also a matchup with the No. 23 team in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Pitt defeated Big Ten champion Penn State early in the season and picked up a high-scoring win over Clemson, finishing the season with games scoring 43, 56 and 76 points. The Panthers have one of the top offenses in the country.
Northwestern will be heavy underdogs in this game nad have their work cut out for them.
The Panthers, though, will give up points. If the Wildcats’ offense is on its game as it seemed to be in the middle of the season, they certainly could compete and pull off the upset. And it is not like Northwestern’s defense is a pushover either.
It should make for an interesting matchup.
Northwestern certainly can feel some sense of accomplishment to get to this point and get this kind of a matchup. It is a big opportunity for the program, as every bowl game is for Northwestern. The Wildcats still only have two bowl wins in program history.
That will not matter as much when these two teams face. Instead Northwestern will have to look to finish off its season with a victory following the rough start to the season.
The Wildcats made a bowl game after start 0-2 for the first time in program history. And that 0-2 start did not leave Northwestern with much confidence in anything. The Wildcats left a win over now-undefeated Western Michigan at the goal line and then lost to lowly Illinois State on a buzzer-beating field goal — that went off the upright.
In between then and now, Northwestern found its offensive rhythm, blowing out Michigan State on the road and defeating rival Iowa on the road too. The Wildcats pushed the Buckeyes to the final possession on the road. Northwestern has shown a ton of resilience just to reach the Pinstripe Bowl.
The Wildcats have a lot to be proud of and this is a strong reward for them.
Their work is not done, though. They still have one more win to get.
Like everything this season, it will not be easy.