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Nitz: Huskies still in running for BCS bowl game

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DeKALB – Northern Illinois still has a shot at a BCS bowl.

Yes, the Huskies have a chance at competing in one of the early January BCS games, though it is very slim.

A lot, and I mean a lot, would have to happen for the Huskies to sneak into the BCS picture. But, there’s still a chance, and it’s something at least worth mentioning with NIU having two games left to play before bowl announcements are made.

In the current system, a team from one of the five non-automatic qualifying conferences (Mid-American, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC) can receive an automatic bid to the BCS in one of two ways – if the team is in the top 12 of the final BCS standings, or in the top 16 and ranked higher than a champion from one of the six BCS conferences.

NIU probably won’t finish in the top 12, but there’s still a shot the Huskies can sneak into the top 16, though it’s still unlikely. The Huskies would have to beat Eastern Michigan today (an easy, blowout win would be nice) and take down Kent State, which is ranked 23rd in the current BCS standings, in the MAC Championship game.

However, the Huskies would also need a ton of help. There could be a good number of losses from teams standing in the way of NIU’s potential BCS bid, and the Huskies will need as many of those as possible.

For example, Rutgers and Louisville, ranked No. 18 and 20, respectively, in the latest BCS standings, play each other Nov. 29. No. 19 Michigan is an underdog at Ohio State this week. No. 21 Oklahoma State visits its arch rival, No. 13 Oklahoma, on Saturday, certainly a good chance the Cowboys lose, and therefore drop. No. 17 UCLA has to face No. 8 Stanford this weekend, before getting a rematch with either the Cardinal or No. 5 Oregon, in the Pac-12 Championship game.

There could be help on the way from teams ranked ahead of the Huskies, who have yet to crack the BCS standings but are ranked No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 24th in the Harris Poll. Both polls are used in determining the BCS standings.

However, getting into the top 16 is just one thing which needs to happen, just one step.

NIU also needs to be ranked ahead of a conference champion from one of the BCS leagues. It is certainly possible, helped by NCAA postseason bans for both Ohio State and North Carolina.

Unranked Wisconsin will take Ohio State’s place in the Big Ten Championship game and will face either Nebraska or Michigan. Miami (Fla.) also self-imposed a bowl ban this week so 6-5 Georgia Tech, which faces Georgia this week, will face Florida State in the ACC Championship game.

Should either the Badgers or Yellow Jackets get upset wins, NIU could certainly be ranked ahead of them in the final BCS standings.

It’s still a long shot to get a BCS bowl game for NIU. Most likely, the Huskies will be headed to the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl or Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Still, the chance is out there. Obviously, the first thing NIU coach Dave Doeren’s Huskies have to do is take care of business on their own end.

“If we just do what we’ve done to get to this point, and that’s focus on one game at a time, and we’ve played the right way in those games, then at least we have the argument if some other teams lose,” Doeren said after Wednesday’s practice. “Because, obviously some teams have to lose to make us go up too.

“You never know, there’s crazy things that happen every weekend. Teams get beat that aren’t supposed to get beat. We can’t be one of them.”

• Steve Nitz is the Northern Illinois beat writer for the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at snitz@shawmedia.com.

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