MAC championship has BCS implications

Time to put the BCS puzzle together.

There’s not a lot of mystery going into championship weekend.
Mostly, everything should simply fall into place.

The spot opposite Notre Dame in the championship game will go to
Alabama or Georgia, whichever one takes the SEC title. The winners
of the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC championship games will each advance
to a big game, as will the team that comes out on top in the Big
East matchup between Louisville and Rutgers on Thursday night.

Florida and Oregon aren’t playing this weekend, but both are
safe bets to land at-large bids to BCS games. Pencil in the Gators
for the Sugar Bowl and the Ducks for the Fiesta.

The real BCS intrigue this weekend will happen at a most
unlikely place: Detroit, where No. 18 Kent State and No. 19
Northern Illinois will be playing for the Mid-American Conference
title Friday.

The MAC has never sent a team to the BCS, but it could benefit
from the Big East’s struggles this season.

BCS rules state that if a champion from a conference without an
automatic bid, such as the MAC, ranks in the top 16 of the final
BCS standings and is ranked higher than a champion from one of the
AQ leagues, such as the Big East, that non-AQ champ is guaranteed a
spot in the BCS.

Neither Rutgers nor Louisville was ranked in last week’s BCS
standings, so that opens the back door to a bid for the MAC

Kent State was 17th and stands a good chance to move up one spot
with a victory. UCLA is in 16th place and has to play at Stanford
in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night.

”I won’t talk about that at all,” MAC coach of the year
Darrell Hazell said about Kent State’s BCS prospects. ”I’ll talk
about Northern Illinois. If our guys don’t focus on this Friday we
won’t have the opportunity to play in some of those big games.

”This is huge, huge game for this university.”

Northern Illinois is 21st in the BCS standings and could also
get into the top 16, but would need a little extra help. It’s just
as likely an NIU victory in the MAC title game will eliminate both
the Huskies and the Golden Flashes.

Boise State, 20th in the standings, plays at Nevada on Saturday
and can win a share of the Mountain West title. The Broncos also
have a long shot chance at getting into the top 16, but it’d be
tough for them to jump the MAC champion.

If a BCS buster does emerge, the biggest loser could be the Big

No. 12 Oklahoma plays TCU on Saturday with a chance to close its
season 10-2 (losses against Notre Dame and Kansas State) and earn a
share of the conference title.

The Sooners can still win the Big 12 if they win and Kansas
State loses to Texas. Still, there’s room for both in the BCS
unless space needs to be created for Kent State or one of the other
potential BCS busters.

If the Golden Flashes (11-1), who lost to Kentucky by 33 early
in the season and later won at Rutgers, do find their way into the
BCS, expect it to be in the Orange Bowl.

The Orange Bowl has the last selection among the BCS bowls and
it’s not likely any other game will be rushing to take Kent State,
or Northern Illinois (11-1) for that matter.

But rest assured those teams won’t be picky.

The picks:


No. 17 UCLA (plus 8 1/2) at No. 8 Stanford, Pac-12

Rematch for the Rose Bowl … STANFORD 31-21.

No. 18 Kent State (plus 6) vs. No. 19 Northern Illinois, MAC
championship at Detroit

KSU RB Dri Archer and NIU QB Jordan Lynch are MACtion stars …


No. 2 Alabama (minus 7) vs. No. 3 Georgia, SEC championship at

Winner gets the Irish in Miami … ALABAMA 28-24.

No. 23 Texas (plus 11 1/2) at No. 7 Kansas State

Wildcats get Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl bid with victory …


No. 12 Oklahoma (minus 6 1/2) at TCU

Sooners need to bounce back quickly from Bedlam … TCU


No. 13 Florida State (minus 14) vs. Georgia Tech, ACC
championship at Charlotte

Seminoles looking for first ACC title since 2005, and Orange
Bowl bid … FLORIDA STATE 44-21.

No. 14 Nebraska (minus 3) vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten championship at

Winner goes to Rose Bowl because Ohio State can’t … NEBRASKA

Nicholls State (no line) at No. 16 Oregon State

Postponed by Hurricane Isaac earlier in season … OREGON STATE

No. 24 Oklahoma State (minus 4) at Baylor

Cowboys and Bears combine to average 1,122 yards per game …

No. 25 Boise State (minus 9 1/2) at Nevada

Last time Broncos visited Reno, an OT loss kept them out of BCS
… BOISE STATE 31-24.

Last week’s record: 14-5 (straight); 12-7 (vs. points)

Season record: 211-48 (straight); 122-111 (vs. points)

Best bets: 5-8.

Upset specials: 8-5.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at