The Humanitarian Bowl is trying to match up No. 24 Northern Illinois and No. 14 Nevada, Humanitarian Bowl executive director Kevin McDonald said in a phone interview Monday morning.
The Dec. 18 bowl game in Boise, Idaho, has primary agreements with the Mid-American Conference and the Western Athletic Conference. McDonald said NIU (10-2, 8-0 MAC) is a "very attractive" option but that he has not yet offered an invitation to the Huskies.
The Humanitarian Bowl has the second choice among WAC teams, behind the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and the third choice among MAC teams, behind the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl. But McDonald said he thinks the teams and conferences will work with the bowls to create the most attractive matchups for their respective teams and that a clash of ranked teams would be a "compelling story" for all parties.
"We feel like that we can put the best matchup together for Northern Illinois," McDonald said. "We think that the best matchup for Northern Illinois would be Nevada. That's a matchup we're looking at, trying to see if we can put it together."
McDonald said he's been in contact with NIU athletic department officials for a month and that he's been impressed with the Huskies, ranked No. 25 in this week's BCS rankings, since they started their current nine-game win streak.
"It appears they're probably playing the best football in the conference right now and it reflects in the ranking and we like their ranking," McDonald said. "There's a lot to like about Northern Illinois. But there's other teams too in the MAC that we like and feel like we can put together some good matchups there."
McDonald was on hand for Nevada's 34-31 upset of then-No. 3 Boise State on Friday in Reno, Nev., where he said he discussed a Huskies-WolfPack matchup with Nevada athletics officials.
Boise State's loss "multiplied" scenarios for the WAC-affiliated bowls, McDonald said. The Broncos still will be an attractive option for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, played in San Francisco on Jan. 9. McDonald said he thinks Boise State is unlikely to stay home and play in the Humanitarian Bowl on its blue turf at Bronco Stadium.
He added that the bowl picture won't become clear until late Saturday night and Sunday morning, when most of the bowl matchups will be made public.
"It's really muddy right now with what might happen," McDonald said. "But our goal is to put together the best game for the best teams we possibly can and we think we have a pretty good shot at putting together a nice matchup here in Boise between the WAC and the MAC."