Week 10 College Football Picks: The Unfair Treatment of Northern Illinois

When the regular season ended last year, Northern Illinois was 12-1, ranked #15 in the BCS and won the MAC title. It would play in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.

At the same time, Wisconsin was 8-5, unranked and finished third in its Big Ten division – making the title game only due to the NCAA sanctions levied against Ohio State and Penn State. It would play in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Guess which caused a month of heartache for college football analysts?

If you said Wisconsin….get out.

jordan lynch bcs
Let’s revisit some of the more idiotic quotes from our pal and the usually smart Kirk Herbstreit: “Are you kidding me with Northern Illinois playing in the BCS? There are two things here that stand out. Northern Illinois — no one knew they were playing until the Toledo game a few weeks ago. You’re going to leave Oklahoma out to put Northern Illinois into a BCS bowl game? Are you kidding me?”

Just take that quote, repeat it about a billion times and, voilà, you have the entire preamble to last year’s Orange Bowl. Notice how Kirk didn’t feel like calling out his beloved Big Ten who, let me repeat, sent an unranked, five-loss team to the Rose Bowl.

Look, I understand that the debate last year was part-hype – ESPN needed an angle to sell a decidedly unsexy bowl game. Regardless of your feelings on Northern Illinois, last year’s Florida State team had no juice. They had lost to NC State, had gotten run over at home by Florida and barely squeaked by a 6-6 Georgia Tech team in the ACC title game. No one cared about Florida State.

The 2013 Orange Bowl was not pretty – another in a long line of terrible, irrelevant Orange Bowl games. It was also not the narrative that has been portrayed over the summer and through the first part of this season. Yes, Florida State won 31-10. When the fourth quarter started, it was 17-10 and very much a ballgame. Maybe Florida State didn’t play their best, but to insinuate Northern Illinois embarrassed themselves is embarrassing.

And now, it’s damaging.

Northern Illinois is currently undefeated with a win on the road over what may be a decent to good Iowa team. You would think a team coming off of an Orange Bowl appearance with a record-setting, Heisman finalist-caliber quarterback would be getting some love, right? Especially after its coach left for another school and the team had to come together to prove the doubters wrong.

Nope. They are 2 spots behind Fresno State in both polls and, thus, the BCS rankings. Fresno State’s best wins have been home squeakers against Rutgers (last seen getting destroyed by Houston) and Boise State (last seen getting destroyed by BYU).

There’s a very, very good chance Fresno State slips up and Northern Illinois reclaims its spot as the top non-BCS school. Northern Illinois will undoubtedly play a tougher schedule, with 8-1 Ball State looming and 6-2 Buffalo or 6-2 Ohio as possible MAC title opponents. Fresno State doesn’t have anyone left in the terrible Mountain West Conference with more wins than losses, except for that same Boise State team in a possible title game.

The point to all of this is a depressing one – Northern Illinois is being punished for its 2012 season.
Is there any doubt if Northern Illinois was making a run for the first time, that its undefeated season would be lauded? That Jordan Lynch – he of the 300+ yard rushing games – would be heralded as a small-school wonder and lovable Heisman candidate?

This year’s team and this year’s run has flown completely under the radar, obscured by a Fresno State team with a much less sexier story.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair to Jordan Lynch. It’s not fair to Northern Illinois. It’s not fair to the MAC. They deserve better. And they shouldn’t have to rely on a Fresno State loss to ensure they receive their due credit.

Although wouldn’t it be sadly fitting that in the final year of the BCS that Northern Illinois would go undefeated, finish in the Top 12…and play in Detroit?

Here’s to hoping the Huskies, if they run the table, play in a warmer climate to start 2014.

Who wouldn’t like seeing Kirk Herbstreit throw another hissy fit?

Picks to Date: 55-42-2
Best Bet: 3-6
Upset Special: 6-3

houston destroys rutgers
HOUSTON (-17.5) over Usf
I did not know what to make of Houston going into last week’s game against Rutgers. They strolled through a relatively easy start to the season and then lost just about the wackiest game you could imagine to a really, really good BYU team. It was a game they should’ve won and should’ve lost by more and one that provides absolutely no insight into anything except football is great and awesome.

Then last week, they went to Rutgers and after a tight opening quarter, they blew the doors off of the Scarlet Knights. Is it smoke and mirrors? Houston is averaging +3 in turnovers per game, which is borderline insane and is easily good for best in the country. You don’t always get those breaks, right?

Regardless, it doesn’t really matter. USF is putrid, especially on offense. They have not scored an offensive touchdown in over a month – a fact made truly insane since they have beaten Cincinnati and UConn in that span. Frankly, I’m not sure there is a big enough spread for me to pick USF in this one, especially as a Thursday night ESPN showcase. The only, and I mean ONLY, angle you could take is Houston will be looking ahead to the UCF game next week that could (will?) decide the American’s first, last and only BCS berth.

In that case, Houston would only win by 21. We’re good here.

OREGON STATE (-5) over Usc
Last week, I picked Oregon State over Stanford and Utah over USC. I got both wrong. Let’s double down on the fun here.

It worries me that USC is still alive for its Pac-12 division and the Rose Bowl (just like I predicted!) while Oregon State needs some help, not to mention needs to somehow defeat Oregon. Is Oregon State emotionally spent from a hard-fought, nail-biting loss? Does USC carry the momentum forward from 2 straight conference wins?

No. And no. Go Beavers.

Northern Illinois (-23) over UMASS *Best Bet*
I already talked about Northern Illinois. UMass is poster child for why not every FCS team should make the move up to FBS. But then again, UMass plays its home games an hour away in the Patriots’ stadium, so I’m not exactly sure what they were thinking anyway.

Northern Illinois wins this game in their sleep. There is no home field advantage for UMass. Only potential drawback is a backdoor cover as Northern Illinois has its MAC West title game against Ball State next – Jordan Lynch may get an early hook.

IOWA (+9.5) over Wisconsin
Look, I know we all like making fun of Kirk Ferentz. I know he makes way too much money. I know Iowa is rarely fun to watch. But, could it be, that Iowa is actually good this year? Their 3 losses have come to teams (Northern Illinois, Michigan State & Ohio State) with a combined record of 23-1. That’s like good. And they played each game tight into the fourth quarter. And their performance against Ohio State, which I highlighted last week, looks even better after watching the Buckeyes do unspeakable things to Penn State.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin has made its hay by beating up on crappy teams. They played two good teams – sorry, Northwestern – and they lost to both. They also appear to be a much different team away from Camp Randall, which is understandable. This game feels like a one-score game to me.

MICHIGAN STATE (-4.5) over Michigan
Maybe I’m being fooled here. Maybe I’m putting too much stock into a road victory of an atrocious Illinois team, when I should be focused on the miserable performance the week prior against Purdue. Maybe Michigan State is a mirage. Maybe Michigan isn’t as bad as they looked when I saw them in person against UConn. Maybe Michigan State is the “little brother” for a reason.

But I can’t shake what Mark Dantonio said last week. During the ESPN broadcast of Michigan State’s win, Rod Gilmore revealed that Dantonio said his team’s goal was to win the Big Ten and win the Rose Bowl. Every coach thinks that. Not every coach says that.

Dantonio said this for two clear and obvious reasons. First, it’s simple motivation to his players – “Hey guys, you’re on the spot now.” But second, it’s because he believes it. Look, if your team sucks, you’re not putting “winning the Rose Bowl” as a publicly-stated goal. Dantonio did. I like confidence.

And I really like that Spartan defense against a QB that couldn’t prevent turnovers against the worst team in college football. I mean, UConn.

Georgia (-2.5) over Florida
So that whole “Georgia is still in the BCS title hunt” thing didn’t really pan out. You can’t fault a guy for trying, right? It doesn’t paint me as the college football super expert I like to believe I am when my national title pick is done by Halloween. Alas, here we are.

Thankfully, I didn’t pick Florida to win, well, anything. Florida is really, really bad. Like 6-6 bad. Georgia is merely good, like 8-4, 9-3 good. And based on how Missouri faltered last week, is a full-blown Missouri debacle that far-fetched? You figure Missouri has at least one more loss Thanksgiving weekend against Johnny Football – they couldn’t fall to Ole Miss or Tennessee? Georgia holds the tiebreaker over South Carolina. I’m just saying…

ARKANSAS (+9.5) over Auburn
I watched most of Auburn’s win over Texas A&M, at least most of the second half. But it’s as if my brain is not allowing me to comprehend it. The loss to Alabama for Arkansas has created some questions and concerns about the viability of Bret Bielema as the Razorbacks’ savior. I’m not buying any of it. Arkansas has something to prove – Auburn has already proved itself.

Once David Pollack said Auburn had the potential as a 1-loss national champion, it was pretty much set in stone that Auburn was going to lose again. And soon.

Oklahoma State (+2.5) over TEXAS TECH
This is just for the Texas Tech fans who ripped me last week for daring to pick Oklahoma at home. Look, Texas Tech is good. They aren’t great. Be happy with the 8-4 season and prepare for bigger and better things with Kliff Kingsbury. The Charmin-soft schedule skewed expectations.

Miami (+21) over FLORIDA STATE
This is the definition of a sucker line, regardless of who you pick. Everything you’ve seen the past two weeks – the Florida State destructions, the Miami close calls – tells you that this will be a lopsided blowout. The fact the game is in Tallahassee makes it even more obvious. Right?

miami duke johnson
Here’s my thinking, which is admittedly and almost always flawed – I think Florida State is due for a letdown. Forget the emotion toll the road game at Clemson took. Think about last week. It was a revenge game against NC State for the 2012 upset. It was the return of Bobby Bowden for the first time since he was “fired.” And it was the ultimate “don’t have a letdown!” game as many wondered if Florida State would get back up for the game.

When it was 35-0 in the first quarter, it made me think that Florida State had gotten too up for NC State. NC State is pitiful; Florida State would’ve rolled with their C game. They trotted out an A+ game for no good reason.

Does Florida State really have a third straight A+ game in them? Doesn’t it feel like Florida State gets off to a slow start, Miami’s tremendous defense causes problems for Jameis Winston for the first time and the whole stadium gets a bit nervous?

I’d pick Florida State to win. I feel like it’s a game in the second half. That could still mean a Florida State cover but Miami is better than people think. 

And when Stephen Morris throws 4 INTs in the first half, feel free to mock me on Twitter.

COLORADO STATE (+7) over Boise State *Upset Special*
Remember when Alabama struggled with Colorado State, up only 17-6 after three quarters? The narrative was, obviously, that Alabama wasn’t focused the week after the Texas A&M game. While that was undoubtedly true, maybe Colorado State wasn’t that bad? They are 3-1 since, with two straight road victories.

Remember when Washington destroyed Boise State in week 1? The narrative was, obviously, that Washington had turned a corner by taking down a highly ranked team. Instead, Washington has not been good in Pac-12 conference play and Boise State already has 3 losses.

Boise State is 1-3 on the road this year, with its only win over a Utah State team without its best player in QB Chuckie Keeton. Boise State hasn’t beaten a team with a pulse this year. Colorado State is rolling. Boise State is not.

Nevada (+20.5) over FRESNO STATE
I am digging Fresno’s 2007 Hawaii homage, down to the high-powered offense, potential NFL QB, putrid defense and agonizingly close victories that conclude around 3am on the east coast. God bless you, Fresno State, for playing such long, interesting late-night games that I’m hungover before I go to sleep.

Regardless, I’m not laying 20+ points on a team that was up 42-3 against Hawaii with 21 minutes to go – 0-7 Hawaii – and needed a last-play interception to secure a 42-37 win. Yikes. No thanks. 

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  1. "Notice how Kirk didn’t feel like calling out his beloved Big Ten, who again, sent an unranked, five-loss team to the Rose Bowl"

    You must not watch Herbie at all to make that statement. And what do you mean "again"? Wisconsin was 11-2 in 2011 ranked #10 and 11-1 in 2010 ranked #5. Ohio St. beat Oregon in the 2009 RB and were 11-1 ranked #8. PSU was 11-1 2008 ranked #8, UI was 9-3 in 2007 ranked #15 and UM was 11-1 in 2006 ranked #3. 2012 was the first time the BIG champ was unranked and had more than 3 losses in the regular season in the BCS era

    1. By "again," I meant for emphasis...as in, let me repeat that. I edited the sentence to make it clear. So thanks for reading. I'm going to fire my editor.

    2. I wished you had changed it before I had to look up all that info :) That's out of the way, now about Herbie: His "beloved" Big Ten? Seriously, that is so way off. He never misses an opportunity to call out the BIG for being weak and he gives his and my alma mater no breaks. Many Buckeye fans (you know the rabid fans that drove him out of Cols. Total BS BTW) that I know have stopped watching ESPN because in his efforts to appear unbiased, he often goes overboard in this criticism of Ohio St. I don't care one way or the other, but he is definitely NOT a homer.

  2. Michigan St. cannot play from behind with that offense. If MI goes up by 7 early, I don't know how MSU comes back AND covers. I love grabbing points with an underdog in a rivalry game that has 2 weeks prep time. Count on 1 or 2 trick plays with Michigan ...

    1. I don't see Michigan going up early. Or at all. The Michigan defense is awful. I think MSU controls it from start to finish.

  3. You are a complete idiot. Northern Illinois did not deserve to make the Orange Bowl last year. Their most impressive opponent, Iowa, is trash. Get out of the journalism world because you cannot write.

    1. Oh come on, we both know I can write. And why didn't Northern Illinois deserve to make it?


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