Kent State, ‘BCS Buster?’ Believe it.
The Golden Flashes (11-1) vaulted to 17th in the latest BCS standings, released during a live broadcast on ESPN Sunday night, and were dubbed the most likely BCS Buster by ESPN analysts. They are now in position to earn a BCS bowl bid with a victory over Northern Illinois (11-1) in Friday’s MAC Championship Game and a little outside help.
Kent State trails UCLA, and is one spot ahead of Texas, in the BCS standings heading into the final week. Losses by both of those teams this weekend, combined with a Golden Flashes victory, would likely lift KSU into at least 16th place. The No. 16 spot is the key, since the highest-ranked champion from a non-automatic qualifier conference is guaranteed a BCS berth if it finishes in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of an automatic qualifier conference champion.
The Big East did its part to help Kent State on Saturday, when conference leaders Rutgers and Louisville both lost. The Big East is an automatic qualifier conference, but no team from that conference is currently ranked among the top 25 in the BCS standings.
That gives the BCS door a chance to open for the Flashes, especially since both UCLA and Texas are 10-point underdogs this weekend. The Bruins (9-3) will play Stanford (10-2) Friday night in the PAC 12 Championship Game, while the Longhorns (8-3) will visit Kansas State (11-1) on Saturday. KSU is listed as a five-point underdog against Northern Illinois.
Kent State Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen, like most Flashes fans, was both stunned and thrilled after watching the BCS news unfold.
“I was watching the ESPN broadcast along with everybody else. It was just great to hear Kent State being mentioned so much in the conversation,” said Nielsen.
“The ability for us to get in that top 16 is definitely a possibility, which it may not have been a couple weeks ago.
“Like coach (Kent State coach Darrell) Hazell always says, we still have to take it one week at a time and let it play itself out. But it’s definitely something I didn’t anticipate.”
The Flashes, who moved into the BCS standings just last week at No. 23, also moved up five spots to No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll; six spots to 19th in the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll; and seven spots to 18th in the Harris Poll.
Northern Illinois would also have a chance to earn a BCS bowl bid with a victory over KSU and losses by Texas and UCLA. The Huskies are 21st, directly behind Boise State and Michigan, in the BCS standings. Northern Illinois is also ranked 19th in the AP Poll, 18th in the Coaches’ Poll, and 19th in the Harris Poll.
Even if their BCS chances fall through, the Flashes will go bowling somewhere for the first time since 1972 no matter what happens in Friday’s MAC title game.
The MAC has bowl tie-ins to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit (Dec. 26), the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. (Jan. 6), and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho (Dec. 15). Those three bowls, in that order, have the opportunity to pick the MAC team they want to play in their respective game — unless, of course, the team has already been tapped for a BCS bowl.
“We’ve talked to a half-dozen bowls to this point, and obviously to the top three MAC tie-in bowls more than anyone else,” said Nielsen. “Detroit (the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl) was at the Bowling Green game, and this week (at home against Ohio) we had (reps from) GoDaddy. We’ve had a couple of conversations with people at Boise (the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) as well. We’re very attractive to all of those bowls; they’re very aware of us and our story. We’re definitely on their radar.”
Last year the MAC sent five teams to bowl games, and those squads finished 4-1. Northern Illinois, which defeated Ohio 23-20 in the MAC Championship Game, took a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl; the Bobcats went to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl; Western Michigan, which finished third in the MAC West Division, lost to Purdue in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl; Toledo, which tied the Huskies for first in the MAC West, took a bid to the Military Bowl; and Temple, which placed second in the MAC East, went to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Bids for all 35 bowl games will be announced on Sunday.