Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

MAC has credentials to bust into its first BCS bowl, so why keep Kent State or NIU out?

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

View gallery


Kent State Coach Darrel Hazell celebrates with his team. (Getty)

DETROIT – Darrell Hazell was hired to coach Kent State in 2011. The idea of reaching a BCS bowl out of the Mid-American Conference was implausible enough that he didn't have a bonus clause for such an accomplishment inserted into the contract. To do so is standard in college football. Did you even consider it?

"Actually," Hazell said sheepishly on Friday, "I did not."

Well, he wasn't exactly alone.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said it's always been a goal of the conference, and Northern Illinois does have such a bonus in Dave Doeren's contract ("I guess I got lucky my agent thought of it," he joked), but in the 15-year history of the BCS no MAC school has ever threatened to crash the party.

This is generally a lower level league, good for producing plenty of NFL talent and wild shootouts on Tuesday nights, but rarely a super team like we've seen from the Western Athletic Conference (Boise State, Hawaii) and the Mountain West (Texas Christian, Utah.) There have been plenty of early season blowouts, mostly in Big Ten stadiums, through the years.

Now, due to a quirky season, a weak Big East, relaxed access clauses and the play of two nationally ranked, 11-1 teams at Kent State and NIU, the league is on the verge of busting the BCS.

Kent State and NIU play Friday here at Ford Field in the MAC championship game.

[Related: Honey Badger to declare for NFL draft]

If Kent State wins, it has a legitimate chance at an Orange Bowl bid. The Golden Flashes are currently 17th in the BCS standings and need only to get into the top 16 and finish ahead of an automatic qualifying conference champion, in this case the Big East, whose champion (Louisville) isn't ranked at all. Doing so would knock out a power program, likely Oklahoma, which would spare the world the chance of another ugly Sooners' BCS game performance.

Northern Illinois is ranked 21st in the BCS and would have a tougher time jumping into the top 16, although the school believes a combination of other teams losing this weekend – notably Texas and UCLA – plus a high-profile, nationally televised win over Kent State could propel them up the standings. They'd be 12-1 with their only loss to Iowa by a single point.

"We'd be hard to ignore," Doeren said.

We'll see. Voters are very good at ignoring all sorts of things.

At this point though, why rain on anyone's parade. NIU refuses to accept that it is nothing but a spoiler, that knocking Kent State off would kill the MAC's chance for its biggest day ever and cost the league about $8 million in addition bowl revenue.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Spencer Tillman on Manti Te'o's Heisman chances]

View gallery


NIU's Akeem Daniels (3) breaks away vs. E. Michigan. (AP)

While the MAC won't get the same cut of BCS cash as a bigger conference school, for these athletic departments, which each have about $20 million budgets, that's still a lot of cash. Each league school might get a $500,000 or so cut.

"That goes a long way at a school like ours," said Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen. "We're all pinching pennies and stretching dollars, and while we'll continue to do that, that might relieve some things."

So the truth is pretty much everyone else around the league is rooting for Kent State out of practicality. Even the commissioner, right?

"No, I'm not rooting for anyone," commissioner Steinbrecher said. "I'm rooting for the best team to win."

With all due respect Mr. Commish, are you being truthful? We're talking $8 million here.

"No, I'm not lying," he said with a laugh. "I'm hoping for a really good game, and let the chips fall where they may."

OK, so the MAC thinks it can get its champ in, and the fact this is even a discussion in college football's final weekend is testament to the MAC's great year. The league won eight games against teams from the so-called BCS league. It has seven bowl eligible teams. Play was so interesting the term "MACtion" was not only coined but trademarked by the conference.

The MAC has always been home to great talent. At the Pittsburgh-Green Bay Super bowl two years ago its 15 players were trumped only by the SEC's 18. Now it has some excellent teams. This is a pinnacle.

View gallery

Wild Story of the Week

Utah at Colorado

The Colorado Buffaloes know about misery. Last Saturday's season-ending 42-35 loss to Utah was just another example.

With the Buffs trailing 35-28, Marques Mosley fielded a kickoff at the goal line, found a seam down the sideline and rambled 100 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 35-35 with 8:25 remaining. Colorado, which came into the game with a 1-10 record, had new life.

For 13 seconds, at least.

Utah retaliated with a kickoff return artist of its own. Reggie Dunn, who came into the game holding the NCAA career record for most 100-yard kickoff returns with four, saw a hole open up in front of him and turned on the jets. And just like that, the Utes had the lead again thanks to Dunn's fifth 100-yard kickoff return of his career.

The Buffs entered the game ranked No. 118 out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in kickoff coverage. They were unable to move the ball past midfield in their last two possessions.

– Phil Watson

Whether or not anyone thinks the MAC champ (which usually winds up in something such as the Bowl) is actually one of the top 10 teams in the country, which making one of the five BCS bowls sort of signifies, is moot. The entire BCS process is a clown show. Bowl directors routinely select teams based on potential television ratings and ticket sales, not on-field performance. Even the automatic bids have been bastardized with conference expansion and championship games.

Georgia Tech (6-6) and Wisconsin (7-5) will both play for automatic bids on Saturday. Rutgers, which Kent State beat 35-23, had a chance to get one on Thursday but lost. Connecticut once made it, got blown out and lost nearly $3 million after falling short of BCS ticket-sale mandates.

It's not like these bowls are as prestigious or elitist as they like to pretend. If Kent State or NIU make the Orange Bowl, here's betting they don't give up 70 points, like Clemson did last January.

[Video: Who's on upset alert? ]

Some big conference fans scream at the idea of the MAC on or after New Year's Day, and the fear is that voters might backlash against the upstarts and sink the champ in the final poll. Maybe those casting ballots should decide to lift them up and give them a chance. If the bowl directors rig the system to set matchups, why not the voters?

"Would we want to line up 12 times in a row [against major conference teams]?" Doeren asked. "Probably not, but give us a game against them one or two times a year and you've got a chance to win."

The MAC's been good for college football. Would it be so bad if college football was good to the MAC for a single day?

"It would be a great accomplishment for the team involved, but it would also be great for the league," Steinbrecher said. "It'd be a great opportunity to put us out on this stage."

It would be a magical moment for the MAC, a proud day for a league full of mostly Midwestern state schools with often working and middle class students looking for a leg up. The MAC never puts on airs. There are no delusions of grandeur. It keeps its athletic departments in line with its universities. The league just is what it is.

"We're just a bunch of kids who love to play no matter who shows up to watch or who's talking about us," NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch said.

If this improbability works out, there could be plenty of people watching and talking, and no coach will ever have a contract without a big bowl bonus in it again.

Fantasy advice from the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Minute:

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Robert Griffin III thrives on complex NFL playbook
Adrian Wojnarowski: Celtics star Rajon Rondo picked unnecessary fight
Sisters, girlfriends of boxer Hector Camacho brawl at his wake
Y! News: Plus-sized mannequin stirs up debate
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football

Recommended for You

  • Stewart claims he didn't see man on track before fatal crash

    NEW YORK (AP) — NASCAR star Tony Stewart said he didn't see a driver walking on a dirt track in upstate New York last year before he struck and killed him, and noted the racer was impaired by marijuana and shouldn't have been outside his car, according to court papers filed Friday.

    Associated Press
  • Lakers drop Bryant future hint

    Los Angeles Lakers president Jim Buss hinted the club would be ready to hold discussions about possibly extending Kobe Bryant's NBA career when the star's current contract expires at the end of the 2015-2016 season. Buss told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published on Friday that Bryant's…

  • Mosley-Mayorga promotion is everything that's wrong with boxing

    The only thing sadder than Saturday's scheduled Shane Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga bout has been the promotional lead-up.

  • 'Money' Mayweather jabs back at Ronda Rousey

    Verbal sparring between Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Ronda Rousey continued as the unbeaten welterweight champ laughed off the mixed martial arts star's dig at his earning power. "Big bank take little bank," Mayweather said in a statement that was posted on TMZ Sports. "Last time I checked I was #1…

  • High-Target Receiver Sleepers

    Raymond Summerlin discusses eight low-priced wide receivers who could see over 120 targets this season.

  • Play

    O'Brien drops hammer on Mallett

    Texans coach Bill O'Brien won't talk about Mallett no-show, but makes his feelings clear

    KTRK – Houston
  • Mario Hezonja lights up EuroBasket tune-up, daps opposing coach

    The Orlando Magic rookie showed off his scoring ability and elite cockiness in a pre-EuroBasket friendly for Croatia.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Column: IndyCar is clearly too risky; time to shut it down

    Wilson's death from being struck on the top of the head by a piece of flying debris during a race last weekend at Pocono - it's time to shut down this ridiculously dangerous form of racing. The IndyCar series is already on its last legs, plagued by poor attendance and minuscule television ratings.

    The Associated Press
  • Bubba Watson wants Jason Day to replenish his mac and cheese

    Bubba Watson talking mac and cheese and opining on Dash Day's hair is as good as golf quotes get. Watson was asked after yesterday's 65 whether it was an honor to play with Jason Day. "Jason Day is one of my favorite golfers of all time because his son has the best hair I've ever seen," said Watson.

    CBS Sports
  • Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, two others, accused in lawsuit of rape

    (Reuters) - Derrick Rose, the 2011 National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player, is being sued by a former girlfriend who alleges he and two friends drugged and gang-raped her in 2013. Rose's accuser, identified only as Jane Doe, said she and the three-time All-Star Chicago Bulls guard…

  • Bolt's scooter assailant says sorry with bracelet

    The cameraman who sent Usain Bolt flying at the world athletics championships presented him with a red bracelet on Friday to apologise after footage of the incident went viral. A red-faced Song Tao of China's CCTV placed the good-luck charm on Bolt's wrist by way of apology after he lost control of…

  • Good Night, Sleep Right!

    Follow our tips to get your best night’s rest—it’s vital for a healthy lifestyle!

  • Devin Setoguchi comes to Maple Leafs with right attitude after 'wrong turn'

    The 28-year-old forward, who signed a PTO with Toronto, admitted he entered rehab last April. Is he ready to rediscover the form that saw him score 31 goals in 2008-09 with the San Jose Sharks? He says he has a clear mind and he’s ready to move forward with his life on and off the ice.

    Puck Daddy
  • Dunk History: Blake Griffin defines 'Mozgov,' picks up Stoudemire's mantle

    When a rookie Blake Griffin threw down on Timofey Mozgov, he impressed one of the best dunkers in history and sealed his reputation.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Cycling-Froome loses ground in Vuelta stage

    MADRID, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Tour de France champion Chris Froome lost ground in the first big mountain test on the Vuelta, suffering in the final ascent of the seventh stage won by Dutchman Bert-Jan Lindeman on Friday. The Briton, looking to achieve a rare Tour-Vuelta double, lost almost half a…

  • Top SUVs For 2015

    We’ve compiled a top 10 List of the best SUVs under $30,000.

  • View

    Dr. Saturday's 2015 All-American team (26 photos)

    After months of waiting, college football is finally back! And we here at Dr. Saturday have broken down the best of the best and named the top players going into the 2015-16 season. Check out Dr. Saturday's All-American team:

    Yahoo Sports
  • Is Jon Jones the UFC's Forgotten King?

    Unfortunately, this is the current reality of former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones after being arrested for an alleged hit-and-run back in April. Jones was subsequently stripped of his 205-pound belt and put in the UFC's doghouse. The absence of Jones has certainly cleared a path…

    MMA Weekly
  • New TVR sports car already sold-out for 2017

    TVR has received over 250 orders for its new sports car, despite no information on its name or what it will look like. In just six weeks, TVR has filled its upcoming sports car delivery quota for 2017. No information has been published yet about its appearance or name, but it appears that the…

    AFP Relax News