We all thought it might happen, but no one was quite sure until Sunday afternoon. That's when the news popped that Northern Illinois would indeed be BCS eligible and finding themselves in the Orange Bowl. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press confirmed the early report from Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel.
Confirming @sipetethamel 's report, NIU to the Orange Bowl.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 2, 2012
While folks cry about whether or not the Huskies deserve to be in the game, the folks at Sun Life and on the Orange Bowl committee need to be looking to Tallahassee and praying. Praying that the first BCS Bowl for the Seminoles since January 2006 is enough of a driving factor to spur Seminoles fans into big time ticket purchases.
If you have not been paying attention, here is something you should know: the Orange Bowl has struggled with attendance mightily in recent years. They have drawn some of the worst BCS games in the history of the current system. Bad team versus bad team like Virginia Tech-Cincinnati in 2008. Good team versus great team, where the great team is from too far to travel, like Virginia Tech-Stanford in 2010.
Oh, and of course, the good team versus good team that miraculously got out of hand a la Clemson-West Virginia from a year ago.
Suffice to say the attendance has not been great and the ratings have been even worse. Now, in 2012, with North Illinois showing up in Miami Gardens, the ratings may not come, but at least they stand the chance of filling the stadium.
That all boils down to whether or not the Seminoles fans show up. On one hand, the matchup with NIU is not the most desirable. On the other hand, this is the first time since the frustrating Bobby Bowden era that Florida State has a shot to play on the big stage.
Hopefully, for the Orange Bowl's sake, the fans want to see the final game of guys like E.J. Manuel, Dustin Hopkins, Vince Williams and Nick Moody. Throw in the possible last game of Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes and perhaps the Orange Bowl has a draw.
We will see if the joy of returning to the big stage outweighs the matchup. If you're an Orange Bowl executive, you are hoping that it does.