The Northern Illinois Huskies had a golden opportunity to advance to a BCS bowl game, and they blew it. Sports editor Jon Styf and columnist Tom Musick discuss:
Musick: I have a pretty good idea what the mood is like in DeKalb this weekend. People are confused, depressed, angry. They can’t believe the U.S. received such a tough draw in next summer’s World Cup.
Styf: College football, man. Just so weird. Lose your first game, go to a BCS bowl. Lose your last one, sky is falling. Ultimately, the Huskies just had two similar seasons. Only this time, they might be headed to Detroit or Boise or Mobile instead. Like them making a BCS bowl last year, it’s just part of the system. But the overreaction to that loss shouldn’t drown all they did this season.
Musick: This is true. You don’t win each of your first 12 games by accident, and your quarterback doesn’t receive Heisman trophy consideration unless he is special. But big-time players make big-time plays, as a certain Bulls TV analyst likes to say, and NIU failed to make big-time plays when it mattered most.
Styf: By losing that game, they won’t earn the conference that $8 million payday. Well, $8 million before expenses, which were $1.3 million for NIU in its Orange Bowl appearance. NIU won’t get the windfall of all that publicity. And they’ll go back to being just a good MAC team, not something more. Which means a pizza or potato bowl.
Musick: I prefer pizza, although I do like sweet potatoes. Is there a sweet potato bowl?
Styf: Not yet, but who knows. I hear they’re healthier (and sweeter?) than the regular ones. But, back to the point, it’s been a heck of a ride for NIU. Now they get to play a sixth straight bowl game before a guy named Matt McIntosh (another food name) or another named Drew Hare takes over at QB. McIntosh’s bio says he “admires Tim Tebow” while Hare “admires Tom Brady.” They would have had a heck of a time at Patriots training camp this year.
Musick: Hmm. I say put the apple at fullback and let the rabbit take over at quarterback. Either way, I hate to be the guy to pop the balloon, but the thrill is gone at NIU. The playoff system is coming to college football, and I can’t help but think that this was the last chance for a mid-major team to make a splash in one of the nation’s top bowl games.
Styf: Never thought it would happen. Didn’t really believe it when it did. Friday was the culmination of all of that. And the Huskies fell flat on their faces. I won’t make any grand pronouncements about it. I really don’t buy that it means they never belonged. But that won’t be the national conversation. This will be used as proof that the nobodies should never have had a seat at the table to start. Go back to your 24,000-seat concrete stadium that no BCS conference school wants to play at. Do your thing, leave us alone.
Musick: It sounds harsh, but such is life for teams that wear big-boy pants to the BCS bowl party. Meanwhile, we’re left to watch NIU play in a pre-New Year’s bowl and wonder which NFL team might take a chance on Jordan Lynch. Maybe it will be the Bears. Maybe he can help fix their issues at safety.
Styf: It’s just a matter of how soon he’s willing to go there. And how much he’s lost by not playing defense in college. He’s a heck of an athlete. We’ll see if that’s enough.