Does anybody want to win the Big Ten West Division?

It looks like Northwestern does.

The Wildcats suddenly find themselves in first place by a game and a half after knocking off Wisconsin on Saturday. Northwestern is 5-1 in B1G play, with Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue in a logjam at 3-2. And NU has already defeated the Badgers and Boilermakers.

The Wildcats have moved up the pecking order in the league’s bowl projections. However, there is a big issue for Northwestern in terms of bowl order: Yes, winning the division for the first time would be impressive, but the overall resume still includes nonconference losses to Akron and Duke. Oh yeah, and Notre Dame is up next.

So if the Fighting Irish knock off the Wildcats, NU will own an 0-3 record outside the conference and then face consecutive road games — at Iowa and at Minnesota —  before closing at home against Illinois.

The B1G is slated to have 10 bowl slots but the nonconference losses have piled up around the league this season and there’s a pretty big cluster in the middle of the pack. Thus, the league is likely to leave a couple of bowl slots unoccupied, or perhaps several. For now we have 10 teams projected into bowls but, honestly, a handful of them are on pretty shaky ground.

Now, on to this week’s projections:

Bowl Game Matchup
Rose Bowl Michigan vs. Washington State
Fiesta Bowl Ohio State vs. Georgia
Citrus Bowl Penn State vs. Kentucky
Outback Bowl Wisconsin vs. Auburn
Holiday Bowl Northwestern vs. Washington
TaxSlayer Bowl Michigan State vs. Mississippi State
Pinstripe Bowl Iowa vs. Boston College
Heart of Dallas Bowl Maryland vs. UAB
Quick Lane Bowl Purdue vs. Duke
San Francisco Bowl Minnesota vs. Stanford