Posted 12/03/2012 at 06:41 PM
While there is no controversy this season with regards to the BCS title game, the BCS produced another confusing situation with Northern Illinois breaking into the Orange Bowl. The Huskies have won back-to-back MAC championships and had a commendable 12-1 season but there are huge differences between this team and past BCS qualifiers from smaller conferences. All the other BCS entrants from small conferences have been undefeated and all featured some wins of quality. The Huskies played just two major conference teams all season, narrowly squeaking by 1-11 Kansas and losing in a favorable neutral site venue to 4-8 Iowa. Northern Illinois only has three wins over teams with a winning record and they received a huge boost from beating Kent State in the MAC championship as the Flashes had an artificially high #17 ranking in the last BCS standings.
It is a great story for the NIU program that recently lost Head Coach Dave Doeren to NC State after just two years but there are clearly flaws in the formula. Everything fell in place for the Huskies last week with losses from UCLA, Texas, and Nebraska, allowing NIU to make a huge jump in the rankings. Any team complaining about not being in a BCS bowl only has itself to blame however as every team knew the rules and procedures. The MAC was furious earlier in the week with Georgia Tech being granted a waiver to play in a bowl game with a 6-7 record which looked like it would cost Central Michigan a spot, the same situation that bumped a MAC team out of a bowl slot last season for UCLA. In the end the cards played out awfully well for the conference as the Chippewas did get into a bowl game and the MAC has a record seven teams playing in the postseason along with the big cash BCS boost. No more than five MAC teams have ever made bowls in one year.
Another confusing bowl story is 9-3 Louisiana Tech being completely left out of the bowl picture. The Bulldogs lead the nation in total offense and would be an exciting draw but they wavered on an Independence Bowl offer that was eventually rescinded and with NIU bumping several teams to different games by their inclusion in the Orange Bowl, Louisiana Tech was the odd team out. There is speculation that Louisiana Tech was wary of possibly having to play nearby Louisiana-Monroe in that game but it is a tough situation for the players that had a fine season. It is good to see Western Kentucky in a bowl game after being the team left out last season at 7-5 but there are certainly some suspect participants in the bowl schedule. Middle Tennessee State was another team squeezed out of the bowl picture despite being 8-4 and playing for the Sun Belt title last week.
The NFL playoff picture will certainly change in the coming weeks but it looks pretty clear at this point. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh appear likely to duel for a wild card spot in two weeks unless the Colts falter and open up another spot. Three of four division titles are set in the AFC and the Ravens have a two game lead that is essentially a three-game lead as they should own the tiebreaker in most scenarios. The NFC North and NFC East division races could get interesting in the coming weeks and Seattle has a chance to climb closer to the 49ers in the final weeks in the NFC West. Three 6-6 teams will be waiting for a team to falter ahead of them but Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota are facing steep odds with tough remaining schedules. The Buccaneers may have the best shot as they have three losing teams and then Atlanta in week 17 with the Falcons likely set as the top seed at that point in the season. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…