(Note: rankings in this post reflect positions in the BCS)
The non-automatic qualifier conferences had, in all likelihood, one final hope to get a team into the BCS top 16 for an Orange Bowl berth. That hope came in the form of No. 17 Kent State. The Golden Flashes needed to beat Northern Illinois this evening and have No. 16 UCLA lose to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game to have a shot of cracking the top 16 (since the winner of the Big East, Louisville, will likely not finish ahead of the MAC champion in the Sunday’s final BCS standings).
It took all of regulation and two overtime possessions, but Kent State couldn’t quite get it done and No. 21 NIU came away with a 44-37 win. The Huskies were led by quarterback and possible Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch, who accounted for 372 yards and four touchdowns.
Lynch has been on the outside of the Heisman conversation over the past few weeks, but could sneak an invite to New York after his performance tonight — which could have been undone by one play, by the way. A fumbled handoff late in the fourth quarter was scooped up by KSU and returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 27. A pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes sent the game into overtime. That’s when Lynch’s 2-yard touchdown run in the second overtime gave NIU a 44-37 lead that was never relinquished.
So now, NIU brings home the MAC championship for the second year in a row, but the Huskies may have taken the non-AQs out of the BCS picture. UCLA lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship while No. 18 Texas and No. 19 Boise State play Kansas State and Nevada this weekend, respectively. Even assuming that Texas and Boise State lose, idle Michigan still sits two spots above NIU at No. 19 in the BCS.
The point is that NIU still needs a lot of help to even be in the discussion for the No. 16 spot, as does Boise State if the Broncos can beat the Wolf Pack. We’ll have to wait and see for sure when the BCS standings are revealed Sunday, but it looks as though a team from the Big 12 — either Kansas State or Oklahoma — will grab the final at-large BCS spot.