DeKALB – When the latest Bowl Championship Series standings were announced Sunday night, Northern Illinois came in at No. 21 with a score of .194.
Three things determine the BCS standings – the USA Today Coaches Poll, Harris Poll and the cumulative score of the computer rankings. NIU is 18th in the latest Coaches Poll and 19th in the Harris Poll. The Huskies (11-1) are at No. 23 in the computer rankings.
Should NIU beat Kent State, which is ranked No. 17 in the BCS (.251), in Friday's Mid-American Conference Championship Game, the Huskies have a legitimate shot at qualifying for a BCS bowl game.
NIU would make a BCS game if it finishes in the top 16 of the BCS standings, is the highest-ranked non-AQ conference champion, and is ahead of a conference champion from one of the six BCS leagues.
With a victory over Kent St., the Huskies should finish ahead of the Big East champion. NIU would also most likely finish ahead of Wisconsin, if the 7-5 Badgers beat No. 12 Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, or 6-6 Georgia Tech, who plays No. 13 Florida State in the ACC title game.
If NIU qualifies for the BCS, the Huskies would probably head to the Orange Bowl and face the ACC champion. The Orange Bowl has the final selection among the BCS games.
Dave Doeren's team was helped out by some of the chaos in college football this past week as Big East favorites Rutgers and Louisville both lost. Neither school is ranked in the latest standings. The Scarlet Knights were No. 18 in last week's rankings, and the Cardinals were No. 20. The Huskies were also helped out by losses from No. 15 Oregon State, No. 16 Texas, No. 17 UCLA, No. 19 Michigan, No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Arizona and No. 25 Washington this past week.
"It was a crazy day," Doeren said after Sunday's practice at Huskie Stadium. "There was a lot of things that needed to go our way to be in the conversation, and I think we put ourselves in a position where if we win the game here coming up that there are going to be a lot of arguments for us moving up.
"All we can do now is handle our business. The dominoes kind of fell into place where we have the chance to have that conversation if we can win another game."
Games to keep an eye on Saturday are No. 22 Boise State at Nevada, the ACC Championship Game, Big Ten Championship Game, Pac-12 Championship Game between No. 8 Stanford and No. 16 UCLA and No. 18 Texas' game at No. 6 Kansas State.
NIU would move ahead of Kent State with a win, and there's a chance the Huskies could move past the Bruins and Longhorns, if both teams suffer losses. NIU also has a shot to move ahead of Boise State, even if the Broncos win, as they have a BCS mark of .203, just nine points higher than the Huskies.
No one-loss, non-AQ team has ever made it to a BCS bowl game. TCU was the last non-AQ team to play in a BCS bowl game, defeating Wisconsin, 21-19, in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
— Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SNitz_DDC on Twitter