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Northern Illinois Football: Huskies' Orange Bowl Run Receives No Respect

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Northern Illinois Football: Huskies' Orange Bowl Run Receives No Respect
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

For teams like Northern Illinois, so much has changed in the last decade when it comes to the respect of mid-major teams.

The Huskies (12-1) have surprised many college football fans and have found themselves in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day to face Florida State.

Growing up in nearby Sterling, I remember the last time NIU was in the BCS discussion.

In 2003, the Huskies began their season with a shocking 20-13 overtime upset of Maryland, who came to DeKalb ranked 15th in the nation.

Later that season, the Huskies defeated Alabama on the road and defeated Iowa State at home. The season included wins over teams in the SEC, ACC and Big 12. The Huskies were also ranked 10th in the initial BCS rankings that season.

But losses at Bowling Green and Toledo that year left NIU at 10-2 with no bowl game due to the lack of berths available to the Mid-American Conference that year.

Over the years, other mid-major teams like Boise State, Utah and TCU have made their way into the BCS discussion, giving teams in the smaller conferences a chance to play with the big boys in January.

Now there is some controversy amongst some analysts, like Kirk Herbstreit, who claim that NIU doesn't deserve a chance to play in this season's Orange Bowl.

Northern Illinois is entering the BCS with a lack of respect from experts despite being led by junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has thrown for 2,962 yards and 24 touchdowns.

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Lynch also set the NCAA rushing record for quarterbacks with 1,771 yards in addition to 19 touchdowns.

But many are dissecting the Huskies' season and stating that unlike the earlier mentioned teams that would go undefeated to get into the BCS, NIU doesn't have a stellar resume.

Sure, NIU didn't have a great start with a loss to Iowa at Chicago's Soldier Field. The Hawkeyes finished 4-8 with two wins in the Big Ten.

After that, the Huskies defeated Tennessee Tech at home before earning a win at Army (2-9) and going back home to defeat Kansas (1-11).

Even I'll admit that's not the greatest non-conference schedule for a team in the BCS. However, it can't be ignored that the Huskies went 8-0 in conference play en route to their second straight MAC Championship.

The win against Kent State earned the team national attention and sneaked them through the computer rankings into New Year's Day.

Not the road that is expected of a Cinderella team. But why criticize this team for taking this opportunity? If so, then you'd have to question the qualifications of Wisconsin (8-5), who will face Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

NIU is getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from some of the so-called experts. I'm sure the Huskies won't mind being the underdog. It's kind of in their history to prove experts wrong.

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