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Orange Bowl: Florida State vs Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois sneaks into the top 16 of the BCS, earning a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, according to Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel and other sources.

Streeter Lecka

The Orange Bowl match-up got interesting after NIU received high rankings in the Coaches Poll Sunday. Once believed to be an ACC/Big East lock, it will be the Northern Illinois Huskies playing the Florida State Seminoles in Miami.

The Huskies needed some help to get there. For a non-AQ team to earn an automatic berth to the BCS, two conditions must be met. First, the team must be ranked in the top 16. Second, that team must be ranked higher than any of the AQ conference champions. Louisville, despite being the Big East champions at 10-2, did not finish in the top 16 of the BCS.

To make the jump from 21 in last week's BCS rankings, NIU needed space in the top 16, help from the human polls, and a boost in the computers.They got all three. Sunday, the Huskies jumped two spots in the Coaches Poll to 16. Saturday, Nebraska got absolutely demolished in the B1G Championship (70 points allowed), bouncing them out. NIU got a boost from the computers by beating 11-1 Kent State in their conference championship. Thus, an automatic BCS bid for the MAC was born.

Louisville, the previous front runner for the Orange, became the best choice for the Sugar. Oklahoma gets knocked from a BCS at large bid for the Sugar. They don't call them BCS busters for nothing. That means a UF-Louisville match-up in the Sugar Bowl.

Both schools will be dealing with coaching turnover. Florida State assistant coaches are deciding to stay or go following the departure of defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Northern Illinois' now former head coach, Dave Doeren, has accepted the head coaching job at NC State.

This is not a sure win for Florida State, though perhaps much more so than other possible opponents. NIU finishes the year 12-1. Their only loss, a 18-17 game against Iowa, on the road. Their only AQ victory was a 30-23 win over Kansas. They did, however, improve a lot throughout the season.

Update: It's official. Florida State finishes ranked 12th in the Final BCS rankings. Northern Illinois finishes ranked 15th.