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Notre Dame, Alabama in BCS title game, but Northern Illinois in Orange Bowl

The SportsXchange

There was little debate about the BCS National Championship Game matchup this season as No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama were officially announced as the participants of that Jan. 7 game in Miami.

But Sunday's night's announcement of the five BCS bowl matchups did create a stir because Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois, which lost to Iowa in its season-opener, got a berth in the Orange Bowl to play Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State.

The inclusion of North Illinois leaves teams like Oklahoma out of the BCS picture, dropping the Sooners into the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, which seems like a more attractive game than the Orange Bowl.

In the other three BCS games, Oregon will face Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, Florida will take on Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, and Stanford and Wisconsin will face off in the Rose Bowl.

Northern Illinois (12-1) benefited from several rules in the BCS selection process. First of all, only two teams from a conference can play in BCS bowls. With Alabama in the national title game and No. 3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, it eliminated Southeastern Conference schools Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina from the BCS picture, even though they are seventh through 10th, respectively, in the final BCS standings.

BSC rules also allow for a team that is not from one of the six automatic BCS-qualifying conferences to earn a BCS berth if it finishes in the top 16 of the BCS standings, provided a champion from one of the automatic-qualifying conferences is ranked below it. The MAC does not receive an automatic berth, but Northern Illinois is No. 15 in the final BCS standings, while Louisville, the Big East champ and an automatic BCS game qualifier, is at No. 21.

As a result, one of the BCS bowls was obligated to take Northern Illinois, and the Orange Bowl, which had the last selection of a team, got the Huskies.

It's the first time that a non-undefeated team from a non-automatic qualifying conference will play in a BCS game.

Northern Illinois' best win was its victory over Kent State in the MAC title game. The Huskies lost their season-opener 18-17 to an Iowa team that finished the season 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten.

Georgia, which lost to Alabama in the SEC title game, will play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
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