<
>

Fitzgerald rooting for Oregon, makes bowl sales pitch

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald today echoed the sentiments shared by most of his Big Ten coaching colleagues jockeying for bowl position.

"I am absolutely rooting for Mike Bellotti and the Oregon Ducks," Fitzgerald said at his weekly news conference.

An Oregon win Saturday at Oregon State likely opens up a BCS at-large berth for Ohio State, which in turn would move all the other Big Ten teams up a spot in the selection order. Should the Ducks prevail, Northwestern and Iowa likely would be competing for a spot in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

Northwestern beat Iowa 22-17 on Sept. 27, finished with a better overall record (9-3 vs. 8-4) and is ranked in the BCS standings and the national polls (Iowa is not).

Iowa has a marquee win that the Wildcats lack (against then-No. 3 Penn State), boasts a superstar in running back Shonn Greene and won five of its final six games. Both teams historically travel well to bowl games, though Iowa clearly has a larger fan base.

It won't be easy for Northwestern to earn a bowl berth before Iowa, but Fitzgerald has put together quite a sales pitch, which he shared with reporters today.

Representatives from the Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports and Insight bowls scouted both Northwestern and Iowa in recent weeks.

"We're playing our best football of the year right now," Fitzgerald said. "If a bowl site wants to have the best and brightest that college football has to offer, by far the highest per-capita income of any Big Ten team of [alumni] base in the conference. The economy has affected us the least. We'll be there to sellout our tickets and to buy all the purple and white they can sell. ...

"Our young men have earned it on the field. Any opportunity we get, we'd be excited for."