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Northwestern deserved better than the Music City Bowl

Cry not for Northwestern football.

Playing Kentucky in the Music City Bowl represents Northwestern’s best chance at a 10-win season, and history would remember that distinction more than any disrespect shown the Wildcats program this postseason.

If, as expected, Northwestern can beat a Kentucky team that lost four of its final six games, then everybody will forget how Michigan State got the Holiday Bowl berth the Wildcats deserved. Then everybody will accept how Michigan, which didn’t defeat a team above .500, lucked into the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl because Northwestern had gone bowling in Tampa too often. Then everybody will get over the bowl politics that treated a hot Northwestern team riding a seven-game winning streak like a fluky upstart.

Not that any of the affronts affect Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, a bundle of positivity persuasive enough to convert his players into country music fans by the time they head to Nashville.

Big Ten championship, you’re kind of at the whim of a how things shake down,’’ Fitzgerald told the Tribune. “If we want to get better perceived bowls, we’ve got to win more games. That’s the bottom line.’’

The bottom line remains that Northwestern earned more acclaim than it received, and sports performance coach Alex Spanos enjoying his 15 minutes doesn’t count. Chicago’s Big Ten team must feel like it lives in small-market America. The Sept. 9 loss to Duke everybody references seems like it happened in 2016. How does the All-Big Ten team not include any players from a top-20 team? Northwestern running back Justin Jackson, only the second Big Ten player to have four 1,000-yard seasons, succeeded so quietly that they should hang his No. 21 in the campus library.

The Northwestern defense finished ninth in the

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