After weathering a rollicking rally in overtime, Northern Illinois Huskies hoisted both the MAC title trophy and oranges. That the MAC championship game likely meant a BCS bid into the Orange Bowl for Kent State was well established. The Golden Flashes were ranked one spot outside of that magic No. 16 and with UCLA’s loss in the Pac-12 championship, likely would have moved into that spot.
But what about Northern Illinois? Doeren led his Huskies to their 12th consecutive win, a streak matched only by title game bound Notre Dame. Captaining the Huskies is a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Jordan Lynch. There should be national intrigue in the Huskies getting a crack at the ACC champion.
Still, NIU lacked a marquee win until last night; or at least, a BCS top 25 win. I wrote in my BCS standings breakdown on Sunday that of the three potential BCS busters (with KSU and Boise State), Northern Illinois had the most difficult path to a BCS at-large.
The Huskies’ marquee wins are Kent State and Toledo, teams with a combined record of 20-5 and both of which defeated Big East conference teams with eight-plus wins. Cincinnati can match Rutgers’ nine wins today against Connecticut, which is one of a number of possibilities that Doeren and Co. should hope to see pan out.
Boise State is in action, on the road against Nevada. Despite sporting two losses and no top 25 wins, the Broncos rank ahead of the Huskies. A win over Nevada when NIU defeated No. 17 Kent State shouldn’t be enough to keep the Broncos ahead in the standings. But then again, BSU lost to Michigan State, which lost to Iowa, which handed NIU its sole loss in a fourth quarter rally during Week 1. Pass me the Advil.
To assume reputation doesn’t factor into the BCS rankings I contend is wrong. For example Alabama is ranked ahead of Florida with identical records, though the latter has three more wins over ranked teams. Boise State has routinely been wronged by the BCS system, but this year is reaping some of the benefits of having an established reputation at NIU’s expense. Maybe with a third straight 11-win season and the second under Doeren, NIU has earned some reputation points.
Of course, that would hardly be enough to catapult five spots. UCLA already lost, albeit with an opportunity to force overtime against an outstanding Stanford team. Kirk Herbstreit argued for the eye test on ESPN College GameDay, advocating UCLA remaining above NIU in the BCS standings. Might the same argument be made for No. 18 Texas if it loses to Kansas State, one of the scenarios the Huskies need to play out today?
Fellow Big 12 member Oklahoma is in line for that at-large bid Kent State lost, but the Sooners have to defeat TCU today. A Wisconsin upset of Nebraska in the Big Ten championship is another outcome that would benefit the Huskies.
Playing the degrees of separation game, a Nebraska loss impacts No. 19 Michigan. As does Alabama’s outcome in the SEC championship. The Wolverines could lose double the ground without playing today. NIU would be the beneficiary. Kansas upsetting West Virginia is another possibility, but no one wants their fate in the hands of Charlie Weis at season’s end.
Dave Doeren and his Huskies have had an outstanding season, but is it good enough to crack the Orange Bowl?