Fresno State and Northern Illinois: Does either team deserve a spot in a BCS bowl?

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Should Fresno State or NIU play in a BCS bowl?

Fresno State and Northern Illinois: Does either team deserve a spot in a BCS bowl?

Fresno State and Northern Illinois are a combined 19-0 heading into Week 13. The Bulldogs rank No. 15 in the latest release of the BCS standings, while the Huskies check in at No. 16.

With both programs in the top 16 of the BCS standings, the opportunity is there for a bid to one of college football’s premier bowl games.

Northern Illinois played Florida State in the Orange Bowl last year and lost 31-10. Fresno State has never played in a BCS bowl.

Both teams will be favored in their remaining games, but the path isn’t completely clear. Northern Illinois has to play at Toledo, and assuming the Huskies win the division, will play Buffalo or Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Fresno State plays at San Jose State in the regular-season finale, followed by a potential rematch against Boise State in the Mountain West title game.

Fresno State and Northern Illinois: Does either team deserve a spot in a BCS bowl?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Tough to say. For the most part, Northern Illinois and Fresno State have dominated within their conferences. The Huskies handled a solid Ball State team 48-27 last week and defeated Eastern Michigan and UMass by a combined score of 122-39. The Bulldogs had to withstand a late rally to beat Hawaii, but Tim DeRuyter’s team has only two other conference games decided by a touchdown or less. What’s lacking on both resumes is a marquee non-conference win. Yes, Northern Illinois beat Iowa and Fresno State beat Rutgers, but both of those BCS teams are hovering around .500. Looking at the BCS standings, Arizona State, Wisconsin, LSU and Louisville are all ranked behind Fresno State and Northern Illinois. I think all four of those teams are better than the Bulldogs or Huskies, but that’s not what the BCS is designed to take into account. With the limitations on how many teams per conference, and Louisville and UCF – the frontrunners to win the American Athletic title – behind both teams, Northern Illinois and Fresno State have done all that has been asked of them to make a BCS game. I don’t think either team is one of the top 10-15 in the nation. But in this setup, if Northern Illinois and Fresno State win out, one will be in a BCS bowl.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The answer I suppose is supposed to be no. Whether Fresno State or Northern Illinois reaches the BCS, that team will be one of the worst non-major conference teams to play in the BCS, joining 2012 Northern Illinois and 2007 Hawaii. Neither Fresno State nor Northern Illinois are nearly as good as the Boise State, TCU or Utah teams that reached the BCS in years past. Still, I’ve always been a proponent of seeing non-AQs in major bowl games. We’re supposed to believe a bowl game is a reward, and an undefeated season deserve a reward even if it occurs in the MAC or Mountain West. I know many people yawn at non-traditional powers in the BCS, but I like seeing an undefeated non-AQ team get its shot against one of the big boys — even if some of them in routs.

Mark Ross
As two of the remaining undefeated teams left standing in college football, the Bulldogs and Huskies are both having impressive seasons. Each has a legitimate shot of running the table, including a win in their respective conference championship games. From a resume standpoint, neither Fresno State nor Northern Illinois has really beaten anyone of significance this season. The Bulldogs have a non-conference win over Rutgers, who is just 5-4 and fighting for bowl eligibility, and have already beaten Boise State once. The Bulldogs could play the Broncos again for the Mountain West Conference title, but even two victories over Boise doesn't look as impressive as it would in years past. The Huskies have run roughshod over their Mid-American Conference competition to this point, but their other wins have come against Iowa and Purdue, who are a combined 7-13 overall and 3-9 in the Big Ten, and 1-9 Idaho. 

However, this may not matter, as long as either the Bulldogs or Huskies ends up running the table and finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings or in the top 16 and ahead of a conference champion from one of the automatic qualifying (AQ) conferences — AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. The former is very unlikely to happen, but don't count out the latter as UCF is in the driver's seat to win the AAC. The Knights currently sit 18th in the BCS Standings and are behind both Fresno State (15th) and Northern Illinois (16th). So does either team "deserve" a spot in a BCS bowl? Honestly, no, but because of the BCS system and the numerous twists and turns that have already shaped this season, the path for either the Bulldogs or Huskies to get one of the 10 highly covered, not to mention profitable, BCS bowl spots is clearly laid out. It also appears to be realistic goal for Fresno State or Northern Illinois to attain, and in the end that's all that matters to either "mid-major" program.

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