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Northwestern to play Mississippi State in Gator Bowl

Updated: December 3, 2012 6:07PM



Being the first fifth-year senior class in Northwestern history to be a part of five consecutive bowl games won’t mean much to David Nwabuisi unless he wins one.

The senior linebacker will get his last chance to break the Wildcats’ bowl drought when they face Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville, Fla (11 a.m., ESPN2).

Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC) has won five consecutive bowl games dating to 1999. The 21st-ranked Cats (9-3, 4-3 Big Ten) haven’t won a bowl game since 1949.

“It will mean nothing until we get this win in this bowl game,” Nwabuisi said. “I don’t know anything else but going to bowl games, so I can’t speak for anyone else. But since I’ve been here, it has been expected that we go to bowl games. It’s all about taking that next step and winning a bowl game.”

Northwestern also was eligible to play in the Outback Bowl, but bowl officials invited Michigan instead. In the conference call announcing that matchup, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier made it clear which Big Ten team he preferred to play.

“If you beat Northwestern or you get beat by Northwestern, you don’t achieve as much as you do against Michigan,” Spurrier said.

NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said he knew little about the Bulldogs, but he counts Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen as a close friend.

The two became friends when they were assistants on Gregg Brandon’s staff at Bowling Green. Fitzgerald said the two began texting back and forth Sunday after the matchup was announced.

Mullen even attended a Cubs game with Fitzgerald a few summers ago when they got together to share ideas.

“This is an opportunity for 10 wins for this ballclub,” Fitzgerald said. “I assume we’re going to be the highest-ranked Big Ten team in BCS. If we win this, we have a chance to be ranked in the top 15 in the country. That’s a fabulous level of success this senior class will have enjoyed.”

Fitzgerald said he’ll take a slightly different tack this bowl season by having his starters avoid contact while completing their final exams in the coming weeks.

“It has been a long season,” quarterback Kain Colter said. “Those guys who are in there play in and play out need to rest. I feel it will help us.”



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