While college football is getting a playoff next season there is one more BCS to deal with. Alabama (8-0), Florida State (7-0), and Oregon (8-0) are dominating the conversation about who is going to the BCS Championship game. There are two other unbeatens who have no shot of making it to Pasadena for the title game, but are shooting for their own Championship of sort. Northern Illinois(8-0) and Fresno State(7-0) are on the verge of busting the final BCS this season. The Huskies and Bulldogs are ranked 18 and 17 respectively, and look to be Fiesta Bowl bound. The team that finishes higher basically wins the NON AQ Championship. For teams in the non BCS conferences this is the best they can hope for.
NIU would be making its second straight BCS appearance after losing to Florida State in the Orange bowl last season. Fresno State would be making their first and last BCS appearance if they finish the season ranked higher than NIU. Both made it early into the rankings which is important especially being in the teens the first week, that means they don’t have far to move up as long as they win.
The schedules for NIU and Fresno are set up to where they will both be favored in every game, and both should be able to run the table vs. their MAC and MTN foes. NIU and Fresno are clearly at another level than the rest of the MAC and MTN. NIU realistically has two games left where they can lose. Ball State (6-1) and the MAC championship game. Bowling Green (6-1) should be there from the MAC East and give NIU a nice win in the computers if the Huskies can pull off a victory. Fresno has just one game where they will be tested, the MTN Championship game where they would have a rematch vs. Boise State who they already beat by one point.
If NIU and Fresno both run the table there will be one big difference in their schedules. NIU will be 13-0 Fresno will be 12-0. The difference in the amount of games is from the Colorado game being canceled for Fresno in September due to the flooding in Boulder. If they both continue to win they will both finish in the top 16 making them both eligible for the BCS games. The American Conference winner will be behind both NIU and Fresno thanks to Louisville losing last week to UCF. Here is the real dilemma do you take both of them? The Fiesta did once already with TCU and Boise State a few years ago or just the one that is higher.
Fans of the 5 auto qualifiers don’t want to see ANY non BCS team in there no matter what, but the fact is that both would have earned the right to be there by the rules they (the BCS conferences) set up. How would you like to be 14th ranked NIU one spot behind 13th ranked Fresno State who gets the Fiesta Bowl? NIU might end up in the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit vs. a Sun Belt team. Unlike the B1G or SEC there is no Capital One Bowl or Outback bowl for 2nd place. In the MAC the consolation prize could very well be a return trip to Detroit on Dec 26th. For Fresno the scenario isn’t a whole lot better. The Las Vegas bowl is a fine game and certainly a lot better than Detroit in December, but it’s not Glendale on January 1 in a BCS Game.
Kirk Herbstriet and his fellow non BCS bashers (Jesse Palmer and David Pollack) will argue against any non BCS team in a big game, but 2 in the same game he might keel over and die. NIU proved last year that much to the chagrin of Herbstriet and many others that people do like the non BCS Vs BCS story. The ratings from last year’s orange bowl were good (6.5) thanks in large part to NIU. NIU is the Chicago TV market which is number 3 in the nation and when people from Chicago saw their “little” state school was taking on mighty Florida State they tuned in.
The 2012 Orange Bowl between BCS teams Clemson, and West Virginia received a 47 percent lower rating than the NIU Florida State game. No matter what the fans from some BCS schools say that “no one will watch” the fact is that people like the NIU’s and Fresno’s of the world. They don’t have anywhere near the same budget or revenue that the Power 5 teams do they just make do with what they have and win. NIU and Fresno would love to be invited to one of the power 5 but so far that hasn’t happened for either one of them. I think that NIU would be a great fit for the Big 12. The Big 12 only has 10 teams; NIU is next to Iowa State and would step in and be competitive with most of the Big 12 teams. Fresno is a perfect fit for the Pac 12 or even the Big 12 if it wanted to add Fresno, BYU, Boise State, and NIU. Think about the adding those 4 to the Big 12 and becoming a 14 team 2 division conference. Conference expansion has slowed for now but those are great additions to the Big 12 if they were to go that route.
If they are both ranked around number 10 which seems totally likely right now, they both deserve to play in a BCS game. I don’t know if the power brokers that control the BCS will allow two very deserving unbeaten non BCS teams in, but given the seasons that they would have both had it would be hard to keep them out. One team for sure will be going to the Arizona let’s hope the BCS goes out with a bang and invites both potential top 12 teams to BCS games. NIU and Fresno would love to play each other in the game I’m sure, but they would love even more to play one of BCS schools and show what they can do against them.