Bowl on back burner for NU

Northwestern has reached bowl eligibility for a record sixth consecutive season, doing so on the earliest date the program ever has. Following the milestone victory, the Wildcats were far from exuberant. Instead, NU is focused on higher goals, a sign of rising expectations.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald informed his Northwestern team that it's bowl eligible, following a 21-13 victory over Minnesota. The reaction was far from exuberant.

It's the sixth consecutive season in which Northwestern is bowl eligible, and October 13 marks the earliest date it has attained six wins.

Big deal.

After Fitzgerald broke the news to his NU players, he added one more detail.

"That's not the goal anymore," the head coach explained to his team.

Under Fitzgerald, the Northwestern program has reached a new plateau. The team's overall level of talent has risen, wins are no longer due to luck, and demands from a hungry fan base are greater.

Reaching bowl eligibility is no longer the accomplishment it used to be. Now, it's expected. The Wildcats have bought into that.

"That doesn't matter," running back Venric Mark said of reaching bowl eligibility. "Our goal is to come out every week, play our game to the best of our abilities and win out."

This a Northwestern program which endured a 47-year bowl drought; the same one which once lost 34 consecutive games. The days of futility are a thing of the past. NU has risen to the level of a perennial Big Ten contender.

It has been stressed to the Wildcats, starting in the offseason, what they hope to accomplish. NU has its sights set on winning the Legends Division.

"That's the goal," Fitzgerald said in a stern tone of confidence.

That's the reason why the Wildcats lacked enthusiasm for their sixth win. Fitzgerald and his coaching staff have raised the bar and Northwestern is striving to reach it.

"The goal was to go 1-and-0 this week," said defensive end Tyler Scott, asked if he was excited for NU's sixth triumph.

As Northwestern continues to rise, so do the expectations. The Wildcats are focused on winning their division. A bowl game is on the back burner.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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