- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Kent State and Northern Illinois are squaring off for a chance to become the conference’s first BCS bowl participant as they prepare for Friday's MAC title game.
Thanks to upsets of four BCS teams last week, Kent State and Northern Illinois fell into positions in this week’s BCS standings to have a shot at a BCS bowl. Kent State (11-1, 8-0 MAC East) is No. 17 in the BCS, and Northern Illinois (11-1, 8-0, MAC West) is No. 21.
The BCS’ rules state that a team from the MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt or WAC can earn an automatic BCS bid if the team finishes in the top 16 of the BCS standings and finishes ahead of a conference champion in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.
Rutgers was the lone Big East team in the BCS standings last week with a perfect conference record and 9-1 overall mark. The Scarlett Knights fell from No. 18 to out of the standings after being upset by Pittsburgh and opened the door for Kent State and Northern Illinois.
“I know (Kent State’s) players and our players are really excited about the implications if either team would win what it would mean to their university from a BCS standpoint,” Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said on Monday. “Always a lot riding on a championship game, but maybe more in this than normal for our conference and that makes it even more fun as a coach preparing this one.”
Kent State does have a better chance moving into the top 16 if it can defeat Northern Illinois. The Golden Flashes would just need to bump up one spot. Northern Illinois has to gain five spots.
Some of the games of interest for both teams this week will be Stanford (No. 8 in BCS) vs. UCLA (No. 16), Kansas State (No. 6) vs. Texas (No. 18), Nebraska (No. 12) vs. Wisconsin (NR) and Boise State (No. 20) vs. Nevada (NR).
Despite Kent State being ahead of the Huskies in the BCS standings, Northern Illinois is considered the favorite in Friday’s MAC championship. Most oddsmakers have Northern Illinois as a five-point favorite.
The Huskies are the defending MAC championship, have won 16 consecutive conference games and have won their last 11 overall games this season. Northern Illinois and Kent State last met last season, and Northern Illinois won 40-10 on Oct. 8, 2011.
The 2012 season has been a memorable one for the MAC. With Kent State and Northern Illinois ranked in both polls, it’s the first time the conference has had two top-25 teams since 2003. The MAC also has six bowl-eligible teams and set a record with 16 wins over FBS non-conference opponents.
“It’s been a historic year I think just overall as a conference with the number of BCS wins we’ve put together as a league, and to crown it off with the best teams from that league going to a big game would be right,” Doeren said. “We definitely earned national respect as a conference, and it’s not like one team had a great year. There’s been a multitude of teams who have had big wins this year over BCS teams, and so I think if you can win this league it says a lot about who you are.”