Created:Saturday, December 29, 2012 12:52 a.m.CDT
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Take 2: Orange Bowl win would make NIU best MAC team in history

By ROSS JACOBSON and STEVE NITZ - sports@daily-chronicle.com

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Jacobson: Northern Illinois became the first Mid-American Conference team to earn a berth in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game this season. The Huskies did so by going 12-1 and winning their second consecutive MAC Championship with a double-overtime victory over Kent State.

There have been a lot of great MAC teams over the past 10-15 years. In your mind, what teams are in the discussion for the greatest MAC team of all-time?

Nitz: There have been some good teams in the past, which may have gotten a shot in a BCS bowl game if the system were the way it is now.

Ben Roethlisberger's Miami (OH.) team from 2003 certainly comes to mind. The RedHawks finished 13-1 and were 11th in the final BCS standings that season, which would have gotten them to a BCS bowl game in the current environment that has since added a fifth BCS game. You can't forget about the Marshall squads from the late 1990s-early 2000s either.

Here's an old-school team to think about — the 1973 Miami squad, which went 11-0 and beat Florida in the Tangerine Bowl (in Gainesville no less).

Jacobson: Those Marshall squads were absolutely loaded. Is it a surprise to you they never finished ranked higher with NFL players like Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Randy Moss at the skill positions? Marshall went 13-0 in 1999, but still only finished at No. 10 in the AP Poll after beating BYU in the Motor City Bowl.

Nitz: It's the MAC, man. Teams never get a ton of love from the voters, so I'm not surprised. But those Thundering Herd teams were legit.

Back then it was much tougher for a team like that to compete in a BCS bowl game. If the current rules were in place, Marshall would have played in a BCS game, as the Herd finished in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. If that team wins a BCS bowl game, it's looked at much differently historically.

Jacobson: So then where would you rank NIU if the Huskies pull off the upset over Florida State? Keep in mind, that Marshall team went 13-0 and beat Clemson on the road. NIU lost to a 4-8 Iowa team and struggled against lowly Kansas.

Nitz: This Florida State team is a much better squad than the 1999 Clemson team that finished 6-6. Plus, the MAC is just a stronger league this year than it was back in 1999.

If NIU wins on New Year's Day, I think it's safe to say the Huskies are the best MAC team of all-time. Honorable mention goes to the Marshall team you mentioned, and the 1973 and 2003 Miami teams.

Will the NIU football team play for the MAC title this year?
Yes
No
Too soon to tell