Tuesday Question: Does NIU Belong In The BCS?

Posted Dec 4, 2012

Tuesday Question: Does Northern Illinois Belong In The BCS?

Q: Northern Illinois – do the Huskies belong?

By Richard Cirminiello

In this mess known as the BCS? You bet.

The Huskies belong just the way Louisville belongs. More so, in fact. Heck, does anyone even bother to notice that Big Ten champ Wisconsin, along with the Cardinals, is also ranked behind the Huskies?; more than 10 spots them. Unbelievable win on Saturday night, Badgers, but you're still a five-loss team that'll be appearing in the Rose Bowl.

If common sense prevailed in college football, Northern Illinois would have no business participating in one of the sport's five premier games. But it doesn't, so the Huskies fit in just perfectly. So, what's your beef here, that the No. 15 team got an-large over the No. 11? Big whoop. Those are the rules of the system in 2012 and then again in 2013. The same rules that are sending the No. 7, 8, 9 and 10 programs to something other than a BCS bowl this year. You shedding tears for those schools that got left out in the cold by the BCS rules?

If the system was designed to pair up the 10 best programs in January BCS bowl games, would the Huskies even belong in the same discussion as Georgia, Texas A&M, South Carolina … and Oklahoma? No way. Do they belong in the Orange Bowl based on how the system is currently constructed? They sure do.

And by the way, why not start embracing Northern Illinois? This program is a great story, one that'll make the Orange Bowl far more compelling than originally thought. Wasn't the Orange Bowl an afterthought until the Huskies crashed the party? Admit it—you'll be all over this game on New Year's Day, either to see if NIU can compete with Florida State, or to root for it to be taught a lesson.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

Do the Northern Illinois Huskies belong? The great thing about their inclusion in the Bowl Championship Series is that… we'll get to find out if they do!

What do college football fans want in any season or scenario? They want teams to prove their worth on the field. Yes, Northern Illinois does not have a terribly convincing resume. No one should dispute that claim. The problem in this 2012 season – not other seasons, but this one – is that other BCS contenders either: A) didn't close the sale when they had a chance to do so; or B) were given automatic entry into the system despite equally if not more suspect resumes.

Let's take the teams that didn't close the sale and make it easy for Northern Illinois to get excluded. Clemson and Oklahoma both lost their two biggest games of the season. They beat 10 teams they should have beaten and were expected to beat, but in their two five-star showdowns, they failed and failed noticeably. OU failed twice at home, Clemson once at home. Neither team did anything particularly special or eye-popping this year. You can't say that it's outrageous that those teams were excluded from the BCS. You can claim that they deserved to be in over NIU, but please, don't say that this was an extreme miscarriage of justice. A slight one, sure – that's fair. Extreme? No way.

Then consider part B of the equation: How can five-loss Wisconsin – or any team with at least four losses – be allowed to occupy a precious and lucrative spot in a BCS bowl? The system's main flaw is not found in the NIU-Oklahoma tension point, but in Wisconsin's (and to a lesser extent, Louisville's) automatic presence in the BCS field.

If you're going to make arguments about how bad the system is, focus on the right arguments and the extreme injustices, not the marginal or slight ones. Also, focus on the whole system's mechanics instead of one minor and isolated component. If we really want to talk about merits, we'd argue for a an end to conference limitations that prevent more than two SEC teams from getting into the BCS.

In the meantime, relish this Orange Bowl. NIU gets to prove itself on the field. If you're upset about this, you're not acting in accordance with America's best cultural impulse: to allow the little guy to rise on his merits and show us if he is… or isn't… good enough. If Northern Illinois loses, the MAC will go away, and so will future paydays. This is a proving-ground moment, the kind of moment our culture should welcome. Does NIU belong? We'll see… and it's great that the Huskies will get their shot.

Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Does Northern Illinois Belong?

There is a big difference between "deserve" and "belong." There aren't many merits there to have anyone believe that the Huskies deserve to be there, but based both on the rules as they stand with the BCS, and what past and present history tells us, Northern Illinois has no reason to apologize to anyone.

Let's get this out of the way now. The only game that really matters is the BCS Championship game. All the rest of it is just political mumbo-jumbo to make benjamins. So why the public outcry of letting a MAC school crash the party of the other big money bowls? It's not like the Huskies danced their way into a shot at a national championship over Notre Dame or Alabama. We have our No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. End of story...(kinda). More on that later.

But now, from the conversations and musings of the big media-types, it's as if the greatest injustice in the twenty-first century of the sporting world just occurred by not allowing teams like Oklahoma or Clemson into a BCS game over the Huskies. For the life of me, I'll never understand it.

If you have a problem with NIU getting in, then why aren't we all signing petitions to reform the selection of a Big East team every year? Why don't we file a police report when teams that travel well like Michigan get in over more deserving teams like Michigan State (remember last year)? Where are the appeals when teams that don't win a conference championship find their way to the national-title game?

At best, it's a scale of public-opinion gone rogue.

Look, the way the BCS model is set up, there are inequalities and injustices EVERY YEAR. There are conference tie-ins that don't make sense, selections with money in mind for big-bowl business, and more politics than a filibuster on Capitol Hill.

If anything, the knee-jerk reaction has put a smokescreen over what should be a bigger debate: Why didn't teams like Oregon, Kansas State, and Florida get more consideration over Alabama for a shot at a prime-vacation on South Beach? That's what we should all be talking about, not the feel-good story of the little-guy getting a shot on the big stage against a football power.

I say go get ‘em Huskies. You belong just as much as some of the other teams that have elbowed their way into the chaotic world of the BCS.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

Even though the rules granted Northern Illinois an automatic berth to a BCS bowl, the Huskies don't belong in a game of that magnitude.

Let's be honest: NIU is a great story. The Huskies are the hottest team in the country, entering the postseason with a 12-1 record. With that type of success, and a dynamic playmaker like Jordan Lynch under center, it's only natural for people to think, "Why not give the little guy a chance?"

Unfortunately, there are several reasons to exclude little brother from the big boy table.

The first reason why Northern Illinois doesn't belong in a BCS game is its strength of schedule. Yes, the Huskies have a great record, but they compiled it against subpar competition. Their overall resume is so weak that even George O'Leary would have trouble embellishing.

A quick look at the Sagarin ratings, one of the computers used in the BCS formula, will bear this out. According to this poll, the Huskies did not a play a single opponent ranked in the Top 30. More importantly, NIU's overall strength of the schedule was 127th in the Sagarin ratings. Since there are only 124 teams in the FBS that means four teams from the FCS played a tougher schedule than the Huskies did.

That hardly sounds like a team that's earned the right to play against Florida State. Shouldn't that spot go to Oklahoma, who finished 10-2 against the nation's fifth toughest schedule?

Even if you assume that the computers are wrong about NIU's strength of schedule, the Huskies performance against Iowa suggests that they're not quite ready for primetime. While the Hawkeyes had a down year, they were easily the toughest team that Northern faced this season. The Husky offense struggled against a very average Iowa defense, recording only 201 yards of total offense. To make matters worse, the run defense had absolutely no answer for Damon Bullock, who galloped for 150 yards on 30 carries.

Is that type of effort against a 4-8 Iowa team enough to earn spot on college football's biggest stage?

Finally, it's worth noting that NIU's appearance in the Orange Bowl conflicts with the BCS mission statement. Sure, the BCS is no stranger to controversy, but it always strived to put the best matchups on the field whenever possible. After all, the goal of the BCS is to "ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games."

On this count, the BCS failed, and failed miserably. Northern Illinois, just like any other team from the MAC, has a long way to go before it earns the type of national respect that the AQ conferences enjoy. And given how poorly the Huskies fared against Iowa, it's not a stretch to assume that this game will turn into a laugher by halftime, especially with an interim head coach calling the shots.

Thanks to its weak strength of schedule, a poor showing against quality competition, and the high likelihood of a blowout, it's clear that Huskies don't belong in a BCS bowl.

However, just because Northern Illinois doesn't belong in the game, doesn't mean that it won't end up winning. Strange things can, and always do, happen during bowl season.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn
Heck yes, Northern Illinois deserves to be there (under the current, somewhat asinine system).

As I said in the Monday Thought yesterday, sports fans love themselves some socialism when it comes to the games they cheer on. The rags to riches story. They get inspired by movies like Rudy, Hoosiers, or Rocky. They sit on the edge of their seats every March hoping some college they didn't even know existed two weeks ago upsets Duke and wins them their bracket.br>
Unless it's college football. Then we all seem to want pure fascism. We want the powerful few to control the many, and thumb the little guy.

I have no idea why that is, or how we became such hypocrites in terms of our rooting interest as it relates to college football and nothing else, but alas, here we are.

There are no George Masons in college football, because for whatever reason, they aren't wanted, a hypocritical and unfair stance.

On to Northern Illinois. Look, folks, when the incessant carping and moaning reaches a crescendo about absolute national champs, or a different system, or playoffs, or whatever, this is what you get. This is the system you get, and that's why NIU belongs.

NIU was ranked outside the top 16 in three of the six computer polls, and ranked 12 in the Billingsly and Wolfe. Human voters had a chance to squeeze them out as well, but they received the 16th most points per votes, thus qualifying them for the game.

Chide their weak schedule and loss to Iowa at your own peril. That's what college football has become, and it's not going to change. It will only get worse. The more teams involved in a "playoff", the easier it is to move up by simply "not losing" rather than winning, in many respects.

Why? Has to be the arbitrary notion that a team must fall in the rankings if they lose. Such as Georgia, who beat Florida on a neutral field in what was ostensibly a play in game for the SEC title, which is a play in game for something more grand, the BCS title, and because they lose a last second game to Alabama falls below Florida in the polls.

Because that mindset will never change, some programs have figured out how to stiff arm the system. Simply playing soft competition and winning is a heck of a way to rise in the polls, leaping teams with tougher schedules who fall at some point. Now, NIU can't help their cause. The MAC was better than it has been in years, and Iowa is either raging ocean or luke warm bath water, depending on what year you get them. So they did their part, scheduling a BCS conference foe on a neutral field before running the table.

And if that sounds a little unfair considering the gauntlet by comparison other teams have to go through, consider the fact that NIU can't schedule the games those name brand can, because big ticket teams refuse to do home and homes with teams like NIU, as we've seen time and time again with Boise State. So what is NIU to do? Play sacrificial lamb a few times for no return date, or schedule what you can, sneak in a neutral field, and try to win out? This is college football now, friends, where everyone is terrified of anything that could be misconstrued as a potential out of conference loss. It's more subjective than it was pre BCS, to be frank.

But if you don't think that NIU has a chance, I pity the fool. Florida State has proven to be an above average national team in a lousy BCS conference. What about them scuffling with Georgia Tech suggests the much more high powered NIU offense can't hang in there with them? Give a good football team a month to prepare, they'll be game. The only sad part? Surely Florida State's assumed "lack of motivation" will be made a crutch if NIU keeps it close or God forbid, wins.

The recent case of mid majors has led me to wonder why so much vitriol? With the exception of Hawaii versus Georgia 2008 Sugar Bowl, mid majors have been a welcome, competitive addition. Utah has a few wins, Boise as well, and TCU as recently as last year.

Spare me. I don't need a three hour dissertation on how LSU, Oklahoma, or whomever deserves a bowl bid that much more. I'd rather sit back like I will in March with a brew or two and root on a shocking upset. There are no Butler's in college football, and high time there should be.