ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has come under criticism for saying that Norther Illinois does not belong in a BCS bowl game.
They became eligible after winning the Mid American Conference and finishing ranked in the top 16.
For conferences who do not automatically qualify for the BCS, teams become eligible for one of the ten slots in BCS bowl games by being ranked in the top 16 at the end of the regular season.
As someone who went to a MAC school, I don’t believe that Northern Illinois or any other Mid American Conference team has any business playing in a BCS bowl game. It is not the same level of football. There are a number of counter arguments I’ve heard. On the ESPN College Gameday Facebook page, people argued that the MAC is worthy because all of the good teams they beat non-conference.
No MAC team has a non conference win this season over a team currently in the top 25. The three best non-conference wins for MAC this year are Kent State defeating Rutgers, Toledo beating Cincinnati, and Ohio University beating Penn State. But again, none of those teams are even ranked, they all have at least 3 losses, and Cincinnati and Rutgers both currently play in a Big East conference that is universally recognized as being the weakest of the “major” conferences.
Northern Illinois didn’t beat anyone of note, however. They played a bad Iowa team (4-8) and lost and they barely beat a 1-11 Kansas team.
While Kent did beat Rutgers, they also lost to a 2-10 Kentucky team.
Among other MAC schools with bowl eligible records, Toledo lost to Arizona; Bowling Green lost to Florida and was dominated by Virginia Tech, Central Michigan lost to Michigan State by 41 points; and Ball State was defeated by Clemson.
There are other years when MAC schools might scrape together an upset, for instance Toledo beating Michigan in 2008. That might look good on paper. But that was also a Michigan team who went 3-9. Beating a down team does not suddenly add credance to the MAC.
Schools who aren’t very good like Illinois and Kentucky will always schedule MAC schools so they can at least beat SOMEONE. That’s who the MAC is. To think that a MAC school is more deserving over a team who played a tough conference schedule and might have lost a couple games is absurd. Otherwise, why play in a good conference?
In a down Big Ten, Northern Illinois would have struggled to win 3-4 conference games. BCS games are for the elite and Northern Illinois is not at that level.
Some of my BG friends might ask where my loyalty is. It’s not about loyalty, it’s about objectivity. I love Bowling Green for the experiences I had, for the friendships I built, and for the man it helped me become. Not because of football. MAC schools who had good years should be proud of that, but the talent does not match up with the big conferences.
When there are 10 spots, I think trying to argue a team who is ranked in the top 16 in a weak conference deserves one of those 10 spots is laughable. I also think it’s bad for the game. We love underdog stories in theory, but we don’t love watching those games. We love watching games with great programs we’ve heard of. Seeing Northern Illinois get dominated by Florida State in the Orange Bowl does nothing to contribute to the tradition of such a great game.
I’ve seen people argue that Wisconsin is equally undeserving. I think that argument fails. Because of NCAA sanctions, the two best teams in Wisconsin’s division were ineligible to play for the Big Ten Championship. It’s a fluke that this situation was able to happen.
Some might argue that a team like Louisville is also playing in the BCS, despite having a relatively unimpressive season. The fact that the Big East has an automatic in to the BCS is something that many fans see as problematic. Because there’s a major flaw in the system does not justify making the system even worse by allowing lesser programs from even worse conferences into major bowl games.