Living in a BCS fantasy world
The Rieger Report
Northern Illinois University (NIU) deserves its berth in the Discover Orange Bowl.
However, it is not because of the Huskies' 12-1 record, their No. 15 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) ranking or the fact they have won 21 of their last 22 games, the best mark in college football over that span. Rather, NIU earned its way to a BCS game.
The BCS selection procedures, written by university presidents from each of the automatic qualifying conferences, clearly outline why the Huskies deserve their spot in South Beach.
NIU finished in the BCS top 16 and finished ahead of Wisconsin and Louisville, who each clinched at least a share of their conference championship. On top of this, due to Alabama's No. 2 ranking and Florida's No. 3 ranking, four other Southeastern Conference teams in the top 10 could not be considered for a BCS game.
Plus, this year the Orange Bowl selected its "at-large" team last per the BCS bowl rotation - it had to select NIU.
No postseason model is more outdated or flawed in collegiate or professional sports than the BCS. The best teams often do not face off, and some of the top teams are often excluded due to BCS rules. Despite this, Northern Illinois deserves this berth, regardless of its resume.
Fans do not mind if a wild card team wins a championship or if the top seed in the playoffs loses in the first round; at the end of the day the champion is the best, regardless of the circumstances.
Louisville is No. 21 and Wisconsin is unranked, yet conference tie-ins mean both schools earn BCS bowl berths while five of the top 11 teams are left on the outside looking in.
The BCS should not be taken seriously.
It does not match up the best teams and does not give fans the best experience. Rather, it concentrates revenue among the power conferences and programs.
Northern Illinois, much like Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, is playing for much more than the name on the front of the jersey; the Huskies are playing for the future of college football.
Given the recent conference realignment, "super-conferences" are more prevalent than ever. It is not hard to imagine a future postseason system that relies solely on teams from the "power" conferences.
The legitimacy of mid-major conferences is riding on this game.
The Mid-American Conference has never sent a team to a BCS game. The Huskies have one of the best offenses in college football, and junior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch might be the key to sticking with Florida State's defense.
A blowout is the last thing Northern Illinois can afford. This would undermine every mid-major school fighting for a seat at the table.
A bad game by the Huskies does not mean they did not deserve a BCS berth. Do college football fans think Cincinnati cannot play in another BCS game following a beat-down by Florida three years ago?
But, if NIU plays the Seminoles close, it could lead to future postseason changes.
Salvaging the future of college football begins Jan. 1. Let's hope the BCS-busting dogs can find some low-hanging fruit.
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