Last season, football defied the odds when it made its first ever BCS Bowl game appearance in the Discover Orange Bowl. With the No. 23 Huskies ranked in both major polls and undefeated after their first six games of the season, it is not farfetched to think they might crash the BCS again.
Just like last season, the Huskies will need a lot of chips to fall for them to again earn an at-large bid to reach a BCS Bowl game. The Huskies have already done a lot of work, going undefeated in their non-conference schedule while taking down two Big 10 teams in Iowa and Purdue.
From this point on, the Huskies need to run the table in the MAC and win their third MAC Championship in a row. Not only do the Huskies need to win their conference games, they need to do so convincingly to move up in the rankings.
While the Huskies are ranked at No. 23 in both The Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls, they will need to move up considerably to fit into one of two scenarios.
The first scenario, which is the least likely of the two, is to finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. The more likely scenario, which is what happened last season, requires the Huskies to finish in the top 16 of the final BCS standings with a ranking higher than that of a champion from a BCS conference that has an annual automatic bid to one of the BCS bowls.
After going to the Orange Bowl last season, the Huskies’ best bet would be to get a bid to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and play the Big 12 conference champion.
Unlike last season, the Huskies have a roadblock in front of them in which they have no control: The Fresno State Bulldogs, a non-AQ team like the Huskies, is ranked ahead of them in all major polls. As of week eight, the Bulldogs are No. 17 in The Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Another poll that has to do with the BCS standings, the Harris poll, was released this week and has Fresno State ranked No. 18 whereas NIU is ranked No. 22.
As of now, if a non-AQ school was to get a bid to a BCS bowl, it looks like Fresno State is the frontrunner to go to the Fiesta Bowl over NIU. Sports writers Mark Schlabach of ESPN and Jerry Palm from CBSsports.com have predicted the Bulldogs will make the Fiesta Bowl.
If the Huskies are to have a serious chance at another BCS bowl game, the Bulldogs will have to stumble along the way and open the door for the Huskies.
In the meantime, the Huskies need to focus on themselves. They need to continue their winning ways in the MAC conference and win those games pretty convincingly, as well as continue to move up in the rankings.
If all the cards fall in NIU’s favor, the Huskies may just find themselves celebrating New Years Day in Glendale, Ariz., for the Fiesta Bowl.