Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren, center, holds the Mid-American Conference championship trophy after defeating Kent State 44-37 in the second overtime in an NCAA college football game at Ford Field, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Updated: December 2, 2012 10:03PM
NEW YORK — Northern Illinois has been selected to play Florida State in the Orange Bowl, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the official Bowl Championship Series lineup was to be announced later Sunday. The story was first reported by SI.com.
Northern Illinois (12-1) won the Mid-American Conference championship on Friday, lost its coach (Dave Doeren) to North Carolina State on Saturday, and moved into the top 16 of the final BCS standings on Sunday.
Once the Huskies reached the top 16, they earned an automatic spot in the BCS because they are ranked ahead of the Big Ten (Wisconsin) and Big East (Louisville) champions.
Louisville would have figured to be a fine fit for the Orange Bowl, with the Cardinals having a sizable number of standout players from the Miami area, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Instead, the Huskies will bring a roster mostly composed of players from the Midwest, with just a handful of Floridians.
And while Northern Illinois — and its BCS-busting status — will surely be a fun story line throughout bowl season, the Huskies earned their way into the conversation. Since last Oct. 2, Northern Illinois is 21-1, the best record in the country. For comparison’s sake, that’s two more wins than Alabama and four more than Notre Dame over that stretch.
If it wasn’t for a one-point loss against Iowa on Sept. 1, the Huskies might have even been coming to Miami with an undefeated record. Northern Illinois led Iowa by eight points with 10 minutes to play, gave up the game-deciding touchdown with 2:15 left and fell to the Hawkeyes 18-17.
Otherwise, who knows — maybe NIU would have found some way to bust into the BCS title game, also coming to Miami this season.