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Take 2: Who has inside track to BCS berth, Fresno St. or NIU?

Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss if Fresno St. has the inside track to a BCS berth over Northern Illinois.

Nitz: Northern Illinois is 5-0, and it's time to talk about NIU's chances of going back to the BCS. The Huskies are off to a great start this season and are looking like a decent bet to go unbeaten.

Now, one team which could stand in NIU's way is Fresno State. Right now, the 5-0 Bulldogs are ranked No. 22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, one spot ahead of NIU. Fresno State crushed idaho, 61-14, on Saturday.

Even if NIU does go unbeaten and gets into the Top 12 of the BCS standings, what are the chances the Huskies are still left out of the BCS? Only the top-ranked non-AQ conference champion gets a berth if two mid-majors are in the Top 12.

Jacobson: With Fresno State already beating Boise St. at home, arguably its toughest test of the regular season in the Mountain West, odds are good the Bulldogs run the table until their conference title game. NIU would have to at least match that. After last season's Orange Bowl, I don't think the voters will let a one-loss non-AQ team into a BCS bowl game again. 

That being said, NIU will have late-season opportunities against Ball St. and Toledo to beef up their resume. Wins against the Huskies' next four opponents (Akron, Central Michigan, UMass and Eastern Michigan) won't do much to help them jump Fresno, so the Huskies need to a) take care of their own business and go 4-0 and b) root for Ball St. to keep winning and continue gathering support in the Top 25 polls. The Cardinals did get three votes in the Coaches Poll this week. 

Nitz: I also think NIU needs Iowa and Purdue to win as many games as possible to make those wins look good. The Hawkeyes are currently a respectable 4-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten, though Purdue may be lucky to win two more games.

Also remember, two-loss Boise State was just four spots behind NIU in last year's final BCS rankings, and that was before the Mountain West added a championship game. 

It's certainly not out of the question for the Huskies to jump Fresno, but at this point, I don't see it happening. We'll see how the season plays out. Both teams have to go undefeated first.

Jacobson: That certainly won't be easy as Fresno will likely have a rematch with Boise in the Mountain West title game while NIU may get Bowling Green or Ohio in Detroit if it wins the MAC West. 

One big factor will be the computer rankings. Although they count for only 1/3 of the BCS formula, the projections I've seen to date favor NIU in the computer rankings, most likely because both of the Huskies' Big Ten victories came on the road whereas Fresno State beat Rutgers and Boise St. at home. 

Nitz: That's a good point. The thing to consider is, will Fresno finish ahead of NIU in the coaches and Harris polls and, if so, how far ahead? The Bulldogs are 22nd in the latest Coaches Poll while the Huskies are 23rd. The first Harris Poll will be released on Sunday. One would think the Bulldogs would gain enough ground with an MWC title and win over Boise, but who knows. This will certainly be an interesting story to follow the rest of the year.

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