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TAKE 2: NIU, Fresno State battling in the BCS rankings

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
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Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com Running Back James Spencer drags a defenseman in the first quarter against Ball State on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

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 Northern Illinois, Fresno State and the latest BCS rankings.

Jacobson: The big news coming out of the weekend was the surprising jump NIU took in the Bowl Championships Series standings released Sunday. NIU moved up two spots to No. 14 and is ahead of Fresno State, which is at No. 16. It’s the first time NIU has been ahead of Fresno State in the race for the non-AQ BCS bowl spot, but how big of a deal is this with two weeks remaining?

Nitz: It’s a huge deal. I remember talking to you after the Toledo game, we agreed that if the Huskies didn’t pass the Bulldogs this week, they weren’t going to pass them at all. Western Michigan is not going to help NIU in the computer rankings/polls this week.

On Twitter on Sunday, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports said Fresno would finish ahead of NIU if it wins out, as long as the voters stay with the Bulldogs. However, he wasn’t projecting the Huskies to make the leap they did this week either.

It looks like the non-AQ BCS spot will come down to the wire.

Jacobson: When I saw Fresno State at No. 16, I had to rewind the TV thinking that I already had missed NIU somewhere in No. 16 to 25 range. Because the computer rankings fluctuate a lot based on strength of schedule, NIU’s rating likely will fall this week because they are playing a poor Western Michigan team. What could help NIU is for Iowa to take down Nebraska. That kind of result won’t get any play in the human polls, but the computers will notice it. 

Another big development was Central Florida only getting a slight boost after dominating Rutgers, a team Fresno State beat in triple overtime at home to start the season. It looks like both Fresno State and NIU will finish ahead of Central Florida if they win out because the Knights’ remaining schedule (South Florida, SMU) is pretty weak.

Nitz: It’s pretty obvious both NIU and Fresno will finish ahead of UCF and that is a nonissue at this point. What will be interesting to watch is if any of the human voters notice the latest rankings and maybe change their mind about the Huskies. Are we going to have a case like last year where certain coaches rank NIU low because they don’t want to see the Huskies in the BCS? 

Neither of us are BCS experts, but if you had to bet, will NIU earn the Fiesta Bowl invite or will Fresno steal it from them?

Jacobson: I’ll make this a two-part answer. If both teams go undefeated, I would rank NIU ahead of Fresno State based on its overall body of work. Nobody can even call me an NIU homer on this issue because I lived in Fresno for the first 18 years of my life. 

In the end, I think voters are holding last year’s Orange Bowl against NIU and I see Fresno jumping ahead of NIU after it’s all said and done. That won’t appease NIU fans, but I don’t see any other reason why Fresno State is ranked ahead of NIU at this point.  

Nitz: As long as Fresno holds in the polls, I think the Bulldogs get the spot, but who knows? I wasn’t expecting the Huskies to move up this week.

I think part of the reason for the Fresno love is that the Mountain West has a better reputation than the Mid-American Conference, although the MAC has been a better league this year.

In the end, polls are the biggest component of the BCS. If Fresno maintains its large lead, I imagine the Bulldogs will take the non-AQ spot.

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