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.