High stakes in MAC title game

DETROIT — Tonight’s Mid-American Conferernce Championship Game between Northern Illinois and Bowling Green is about a trophy, a push for a seat on the Heisman Trophy stage and the chance for Northern Illinois to stay unbeaten.

It’s also about money. A lot of it.

When Northern Illinois beat Kent State in double overtime in this game last year and crashed the BCS, becoming the first MAC team ever to play in the Orange Bowl, it meant a nice pay day not only for Northern Illinois, but for the league as a whole.

A person in the MAC office told FOXSportsOhio.com that each of the MAC’s 12 other football programs “made about $360,000” from Northern Illinois’ BCS windfall. Considering each MAC school only gets about $100,000 annually from the league’s national TV deal, that’s a lot of money.

A whole lot of money.

Making a BCS game this season is worth as much as $18 million to the MAC. Bowl games come with a hefty expense tab — including a minimum of 17,500 tickets the competing school in a BCS game must pay for. The MAC paid Northern Illinois $1.3 million last year, and the Huskies were still able to turn a profit off their Orange Bowl trip. 

Northern Illinois goes to the BCS — almost certainly the Fiesta Bowl — again this year if one of two things happen…

1) It finishes in the top 16 of the BCS standings and ahead of an automatic qualifier, which in this case is American Athletic Conference champion Central Florida.

2) It finishes in the top 12 of the BCS standings.

Thanks mostly to a strong computer rating, Northern Illinois comes into tonight’s game at No. 14. UCF is No. 16.

UCF plays SMU on Saturday. With Nos. 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 all in action this weekend, Northern Illinois could still move into the top 12.

The Huskies are going for their first ever 13-0 season, and quarterback Jordan Lynch has an opportunity on a national stage to earn more Heisman attention. Heisman Trophy ballots are due on Monday, and Lynch enters tonight’s game 245 rushing yards short of becoming the first player ever to run and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.