Fiesta Bowl 2013: Examining Possible Matchups for BCS Showcase

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2013

DEKALB, IL - NOVEMBER 26: Quarterback Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies stands on the sidelines as the defense is on the field during the fourth quarter against the Western Michigan Broncos at Huskie Stadium on November 26, 2013 in DeKalb, Illinois. Northern Illinois defeated Western Michigan 33-14. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Three games will likely decide who plays in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl.

The first of those three games is on Friday night, when Northern Illinois takes on Bowling Green in the MAC championship. In the event the Huskies win, they'll be a lock for Tempe, considering the Fiesta Bowl gets the last at-large bid. The Huskies also fill the requisites to have a non-AQ team make the BCS.

The other two games are in the Big 12. If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, the Cowboys win the conference and will head to the Fiesta Bowl, via the Big 12's tie-in with the bowl. Should OK State lose, it then depends on the winner of the Baylor-Texas game, because either the Bears or Longhorns would be the only one-loss team in the conference.

Now if the Huskies lose, then your guess is as good as anybody's as to which team the Orange Bowl would select. It'd likely be either Clemson, Oregon or the loser of the Big Ten title game.

In lieu of creating a million different scenarios, let's take a look at the matchups should the Huskies prevail on Friday night.


Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 23:  Emmanuel Ogbah #38 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates with teammates in the second quarter against the Baylor Bears at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Gett
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Although this is the likeliest outcome of the three options for the Huskies, it's by far the worst.

Oklahoma State is a completely different team since that loss to West Virginia back in September. A blowout of Baylor illustrated both the ability of quarterback Clint Chelf and the strength of the Cowboys' defense. Few could've predicted how well OK State would shut down what had been an electric Baylor offense.

Simply put, you can't have too much faith in this Northern Illinois team. Its biggest win was against an 8-4 Iowa team. The last time the Huskies played a quality opponent, they were soundly beaten by Florida State, 31-10, in last year's Orange Bowl.

As good as quarterback Jordan Lynch is, he can't do it all on his own. Oklahoma State has the personnel to take the Heisman Trophy contender out of the game, or at the very least limit his ineffective.

Plus, how can the Huskies stop both Chelf and the Cowboys' rushing duo of Desmond Roland and Jeremy Smith?


Texas Longhorns vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 16:  Case McCoy #6 hands the ball to Joe Bergeron #24 of the Texas Longhorns during a game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  Oklahoma State won the ga
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The best chance Northern Illinois has of winning the Fiesta Bowl is if Texas wins the Big 12.

The Longhorns' offense has been anything but consistent this season. Most of that is down to the performance of Case McCoy, who has completed 60.1 percent of his passes and thrown 10 touchdowns—but he also has nine interceptions.

There are also some question marks with the defense. Texas is giving up 25.1 points (53rd), 176.6 rushing yards (77th) and 392.5 total yards total (54th) a game.

Lynch and the Huskies are capable of getting quick scores, which would help build momentum and heap more pressure on McCoy.

Although the Longhorns would be the favorites, you could see the door opening for Northern Illinois in this matchup.


Baylor Bears vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 30:  (L-R) Clay Fuller #23 of the Baylor Bears and Bryce Petty #14 celebrate a touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This would be the most entertaining matchup of the three.

On one side, you've got Lynch and the running game of Northern Illinois. On the other is Baylor and its high-powered offense, led by quarterback Bryce Petty.

Best-case scenario, this game turns into a shootout, with both teams getting into the 30s or 40s. Worst-case scenario is Baylor grabbing an early lead and coasting from there.

As good as Lynch has been, everything would hinge on the Huskies defense.

Northern Illinois is giving up 369.3 yards a game, so it's far from a lockdown unit. Baylor's offense is unlike anything the Huskies would've seen this season. Few in the country can replicate that quick-strike ability, thanks to the talent Baylor possesses.

You can't see NIU slowing down Baylor enough to come out victorious.