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2012 bowl projections: Northwestern could face South Carolina in Outback Bowl

The Wildcats have never won a bowl game under current head coach Pat Fitzgerald. A possible matchup against No. 11 South Carolina in the Outback Bowl likely wouldn't make ending that streak any easier.

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A matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks in this year's Outback Bowl could be in the Northwestern Wildcats' future after a successful regular season under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, SB Nation's Jason Kirk writes in his latest bowl projections.

Finishing this season a 9-3 overall record, including a 5-3 record against Big Ten opponents, the Wildcats are currently ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and No. 21 in the AP Top 25 Poll, though they're only ranked No. 22 in the BCS rankings due to weak computer poll results.

The Gamecocks would likely qualify as Northwestern's most difficult opponent of the year given the dearth of elite teams in the Big Ten this season. The Wildcats avoided a matchup against the unbeaten Ohio St. Buckeyes, plus they lost to more competitive foes such as Nebraska (10-3) and Michigan (8-4).

South Carolina beat then-No. 11 Clemson on Nov. 24 to finish the regular season with a 10-2 record. The only losses the Gamecocks suffered this year were against then-No. 2 Florida and then-No. 9 LSU during back-to-back weeks in October, so the Wildcats will likely have their hands full if this game comes to fruition.

The Outback Bowl takes place on Jan. 1 from Tampa, Fla.