Are They Worthy?
It's fun to watch underdogs win
The argument against Northern Illinois playing in a BCS bowl is elitism at its worst, and an extension of why college football is the only sport where the postseason is a slate of exhibition games that lead up to a championship game that often disappoints.
So why can't Northern Illinois play in one of those exhibition games?
You can argue it is about talent, but it's really about the haves keeping their money and their power and schools from the Mid-American Conference knowing their place, which is the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
I think most fans agree with me: It's fun to watch the underdog win. It's why the NCAA basketball tournament is beloved and the bowl system is despised.
Only the true college segregationists espouse the glories of the bowl system. Only the gamblers and the bored care about every game. Thankfully, we're moving toward a playoff system, even if it's only four games.
A college football analyst calling Northern Illinois' inclusion in the BCS system a joke is like a financial reporter in 2008 blaming an unemployed family which lost its home in Florida for the housing market crash.
The bowl system is the joke. NIU is the truth. You want amateurism? NIU is probably closer to resembling an elite high school football program than to resembling Alabama. But, damn if it isn't a great program.
NIU ran the table after a season-opening one-point loss to Iowa and has a fun college quarterback in Jordan Lynch. It's a real underdog story, an underfunded team that has no footprint in the college landscape, and barely one in Chicago, earning its lottery ticket.
So, tell me why you'd rather watch Wisconsin or Louisville in this game. Don't cry for Oklahoma either. As if it needs any help. Northern Illinois' inclusion in the BCS isn't only fair, it's good TV.
This is a rare situation. The best MAC football teams still mostly get relegated to an also-ran bowl game. Like MAC title-game loser Kent State, which had an easier road to the BCS going into the game, which is playing Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
This is why NIU coach Dave Doeren bailed for NC State and won't coach the game.
We should be celebrating the Huskies for crashing the party. Instead we have to argue with people who probably wanted Ferris Bueller kicked out of Chez Quis. "What about the real Abe Froman's reservation?!"
Anecdotally, NIU won't be the worst BCS team in the series' short, corrupt history: Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, UConn in 2011 Fiesta, Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
When faced with Kirk Herbstreit's criticism on ESPN, at least one NIU player reacted appropriately. Let them eat cake? No, let them throw oranges at the TV.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Schedule shows Huskies' flaw
Has anyone actually looked?
Has anyone seen the schedule that Northern Illinois played this season before busting the BCS and earning an Orange Bowl berth?
The Huskies lost to Iowa, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, to start the season. Then they rattled off 11 straight wins from this group: Tennessee Martin, Army, Kansas, Central Michigan, Ball State, Buffalo, Akron, Western Michigan, UMass, Toledo and Eastern Michigan.
Then they knocked off a solid Kent State team in the MAC championship. So what?
That's one quality win over a ranked opponent. One quality win over a team from a non-BCS conference.
Give me a break.
I'm all for the underdog story, but this is ludicrous. As ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit and many others have pointed out in the past few days, Northern Illinois just doesn't pass the eye test. Everyone knows the BCS is a flawed system and nobody is faulting the Huskies for winning games on their schedule. The issue is that their schedule was weak in a mediocre conference.
Obviously, if the Big East wasn't so terrible we wouldn't even be having this conversation. I understand the point about bowl games being exhibitions; why not give the little guys a chance in a game that most will forget about as soon as it's over anyway?
Because the Huskies don't deserve to be there.
Sure, they played by the rules and won, but they didn't play close to the level of competition of other teams. College football is never going to have an even playing field with all the different elements in the sport, but that doesn't mean people should give teams that don't go out and play better competition a chance just because of the way the numbers spit out of a computer.
Northern Illinois did everything it was supposed to do and earned the right, in this stupid BCS system, to play with the big boys in the Orange Bowl. I hope the Huskies make it a game against Florida State, but I still don't think they should be there.
My heart loves a good story, but my eyes know better. There are more deserving teams than Northern Illinois.
Just take a look at its schedule compared to the other teams that got locked out and try to tell me differently.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.