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Northwestern Wildcats: History Is Not on Pat Fitzgerald's Side

Pat Fitzgerald has been Northwestern's head football coach since 2006.
Pat Fitzgerald has been Northwestern's head football coach since 2006.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Gabe SalgadoCorrespondent IIIDecember 7, 2012

For the fifth season in a row under Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern's football team has made it to a bowl game.

The downside of this achievement is that the "Cardiac Cats" are 0-4 in bowl games under Pat Fitzgerald.

Historically, NU is only 1-9 in the 10 bowl games they've played in. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since they defeated California in the Rose Bowl during the 1948 season.

Pat Fitzgerald has quite the task in front of him. I can't even begin to imagine the pressure that the former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is feeling.

If college football has taught us anything, it's that some coaches' careers are defined with bowl victories. 

There have been cases where coaches have been fired because they could not win bowl games despite doing well in the regular season.

I'm not saying that Coach Fitzgerald's job is on the line. But with the historical significance taking place here, he should definitely coach like his job is on the line.

Here is why the Wildcats have not won a bowl game under Pat Fitzgerald:

In the 2008 Alamo Bowl, the Wildcats defense squandered a fourth-quarter lead which sent the game into overtime.

Missouri scored the go-ahead touchdown to start the final frame, and the Wildcats offense couldn't keep up.

One year later, the Wildcats fell to Auburn in the Outback Bowl. The 'Cats missed a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Then in overtime, the Tigers kicked the go-ahead field goal. When the Wildcats got the ball back, they were stopped two yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown.

The 2010 season saw Northwestern play Texas Tech the Ticket City Bowl. In that game, NU was unable to stop the Red Raiders' air attack offense.

Then there was last year's Car Care Bowl against Texas A&M. Pat Fitzgerald's defense was dominated throughout the entire game.

This year, Northwestern will take on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. This is NU's first trip to the Gator Bowl and their third Florida bowl game in school history.

There are both pros and cons for Northwestern heading into this year's contest. First for the cons:

1. Northwestern has never beaten an SEC team in a bowl game.

2. This is no longer the same Mississippi State Bulldog team that once was college football's doormat. 

3. The Bulldogs have pulled together three straight winning seasons.

4. They have won their last three bowl games.

5. They also won their last meeting with a Big Ten team. They destroyed Michigan in the Gator Bowl two seasons ago.

Northwestern certainly has its work cut out for it. But here are their pros:

1. Miss State went 0-3 against the Top 25 this year; Northwestern is currently ranked at No. 20.

2. The Bulldogs finished the season with a 1-4 record after starting 7-0.

3. Northwestern's offense averages almost 30 points-per-game while MSU's defense has given up 30 or more points five times in 2012.

4. The Wildcats defense has significantly improved over the last four seasons. They held nine of this year's opponents to under 30 points.

5. NU is 2-1 in their last three games against SEC teams.

If Northwestern can continue to play mistake free football, hard-nosed defense, and score consistently on offense, they should win this game.

We will definitely see what Pat Fitzgerald is made of come New Year's Day.

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