LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 5: Quarterback Kain Colter #2 of the Northwestern Wildcats is tripped up by defensive back Lance Thorell #23 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game at Memorial Stadium November 5, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Northwestern beat Nebraska 28-25. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
The Northwestern Wildcats host the Rice Owls on Saturday as they hope to win their third consecutive game and push towards a bowl appearance.
Last week, the Northwestern Wildcats won pretty much the biggest game they'll play all season, defeating No. 10 Nebraska on the road in Lincoln. This week, they're hosting a far less intimidating Rice Owls team at home, but the prospect of a possible bowl berth is still essentially on the line.
The Wildcats are at home in each of their final three games, playing the Owls this week and Minnesota next week before facing Michigan State to finish off their schedule. Currently sitting at 4-5 on the season, they're going to need to win at least two of the next three games to become eligible to play in a bowl. Given that Rice and Minnesota are two of the weaker teams in the nation and Michigan State is currently ranked No. 17, it's easy to see why the Wildcats should be targeting wins in their next two games rather than hope to pull off another upset, this time against the Spartans, to get into a bowl.
The good news is that the Wildcats have a good chance of winning this week, especially given the optimism that starting quarterback Dan Persa will play on Saturday. He got hurt against Nebraska, but then again Northwestern may be alright even if Persa isn't playing given how well backup Kane Colter played in his absence.
The Owls beat UTEP 41-37 last week to end a three-game losing streak, but they're just 3-6 on the season and have one of the most porous defenses in the nation, so expect the Wildcats to be aiming for a pretty high point total this week. Whether Persa or Colter gets most of the snaps, Northwestern should be in good hands, which is good news considering that they can't really afford lose this game.