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Jordan Lynch to critics of NIU’s Orange Bowl bid: We deserve it

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) looks pass during first half an NCAA college football game against IowSoldier Field Chicago

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) looks to a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa at Soldier Field in Chicago, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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While Notre Dame was a long shot to reach the national championship game in August, Northern Illinois was a moon shot to reach the Orange Bowl.

And yet, there the Huskies were Sunday, accepting a bid to play Florida State in a BCS bowl.

They’re the first Mid-American Conference team to reach a BCS bowl and the first school from a non-automatic-qualifier league to receive a BCS bid without being undefeated.

It might be a feel-good story around here. But some experts are outraged that NIU cracked the top 16 BCS code.

“They don’t deserve to be in the BCS,’’ said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, adding that NIU lacks the signature victories of past BCS busters such as TCU, Utah and Boise State. “I love Jordan [Lynch] and it’s a great team. I hate to jump on them. But you’re going to leave Oklahoma out to put Northern Illinois in? Are you kidding me? To put them in the BCS is an absolute joke.’’

Lynch, the redshirt junior from Mount Carmel who’s having a record-breaking season that has put him in the Heisman discussion, defended the Huskies’ unprecedented bowl accomplishment.

“We’re hungry, and we can’t wait to play,’’ Lynch said. “We’re 12-1. We’ve faced tons of adversity, we won tons of games. We beat a 17th-ranked Kent State team. We definitely deserve to be in there. It’s a dream come true for all of us.’’

Herbstreit stressed that he’s down on the selection process, not NIU.

“What we’re talking about more is the system,’’ the former Ohio State quarterback said. “Northern Illinois is the pawn. This has nothing to do with what Northern Illinois accomplished this year. We’re talking about using them as the example of what’s frustrating about this system.’’

The four Big 12 coaches who vote in the coaches’ poll, which is one-third of the BCS selection process, showed how deep those frustrations go.

They “did everything they could to help conference-member Oklahoma’s position in the final Bowl Championship Series standings,’’ reported USA Today, which operates the poll. “Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Baylor’s Art Briles, Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen either voted the Sooners No. 6 and/or the Mid-American Conference champion Huskies No. 24 in Sunday’s final regular-season balloting. Stoops did both.’’

The poll’s six MAC coaches, including NIU coach Dave Doeren, “cast their ballots in a way that was not as helpful to the Huskies as the Big 12’s votes were to the Sooners,’’ USA Today reported.

For all the complaints, two other BCS bowls received wider point spreads from a Las Vegas oddsmaker. NIU was listed as a seven-point underdog to Florida State, while Notre Dame was an 81/2-point dog to Alabama and Louisville was given 161/2 points against Florida, its Sugar Bowl opponent.

While Herbstreit has a point, it’s not as if Oklahoma is staying home. The Sooners have an excellent matchup with Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, which will be played in prime time on Jan. 4 at palatial Cowboys Stadium.

If it’s about athletics, NIU is in for the experience of a lifetime. Kent State, which might have been in the Huskies’ shoes if it had prevailed in their shootout on Friday, is bound for the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

If it’s about money, that’s a ­different matter.

Here’s hoping college football fans put aside their skepticism about unknown, untouted NIU and embrace the inevitable David-and-Goliath angle. It’s not as if the FSU-Louisville game that had been envisioned was destined to be a thriller.

It’s a shame Doeren, who took the North Carolina State job Saturday, won’t be around for the fun.

Petrino hired

No, not that Petrino. Former Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who ran Arkansas’ offense this fall, has been hired as coach at Idaho. Petrino is the younger brother of Bobby Petrino, who left Arkansas in disgrace.



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