- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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For most of the season, folks have penciled in the Big East champion into the Discover Orange Bowl.
Now all of a sudden, the Allstate Sugar Bowl is a possibility.
Representatives from both games will be in Piscataway, N.J., tonight for the all-important showdown between Rutgers and Louisville. How did the Sugar come into the picture?
Turn your attention to the MAC championship game Friday night between No. 17 Kent State (11-1) and No. 21 Northern Illinois (11-1). If the Golden Flashes win, they have a shot at finishing in the Top 16 of the final BCS standings, to be released Sunday night. And if that happens, they would get an automatic berth into the BCS.
Why? A team from a non-automatic qualifying conference clinches a spot if it finishes in the Top 16 AND higher than an AQ conference champion. That is where the Big East comes in. Rutgers and Louisville both lost last week and are unranked in the BCS standings. So if Kent State can win and sneak into the Top 16, it would be all but assured of finishing higher than either Rutgers or Louisville.
Here is the selection order for the games this year: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. If there is an automatic qualifier from a non-AQ conference, it would most likely be left to the Orange Bowl, which has last pick this year. That would open up a spot in the Sugar Bowl for the Big East representative.
No. 20 Boise State and No. 21 Northern Illinois also are ranked higher than Rutgers or Louisville. If they both win, they would have a much tougher time finishing in the Top 16 than Kent State.
The Big East does not get its champion into the Sugar Bowl often -- twice since the 2001 season. The last time it happened, Florida obliterated Cincinnati 51-24. The likely opponent this year in the Sugar? Florida.
If I am the Big East, I would so much rather take my chances against the ACC champ in Miami!