By RALPH D. RUSSO, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Northern Illinois has been selected to play Florida State in the Orange Bowl, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the official Bowl Championship Series lineup was to be announced later Sunday. The story was first reported by SI.com.
Northern Illinois (12-1) won the Mid-American Conference championship on Friday, lost its coach (Dave Doeren) to North Carolina State on Saturday, and moved into the top 16 of the final BCS standings on Sunday.
Once the Huskies reached the top 16, they earned an automatic spot in the BCS because they are ranked ahead of the Big Ten (Wisconsin) and Big East (Louisville) champions.
Louisville would have figured to be a fine fit for the Orange Bowl, with the Cardinals having a sizable number of standout players from the Miami area, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Instead, the Huskies will bring a roster mostly composed of players from the Midwest, with just a handful of Floridians.
And while Northern Illinois — and its BCS-busting status — will surely be a fun story line throughout bowl season, the Huskies earned their way into the conversation. Since last Oct. 2, Northern Illinois is 21-1, the best record in the country. For comparison's sake, that's two more wins than Alabama and four more than Notre Dame over that stretch.
If it wasn't for a one-point loss against Iowa on Sept. 1, the Huskies might have even been coming to Miami with an undefeated record. Northern Illinois led Iowa by eight points with 10 minutes to play, gave up the game-deciding touchdown with 2:15 left and fell to the Hawkeyes 18-17.
Otherwise, who knows — maybe NIU would have found some way to bust into the BCS title game, also coming to Miami this season.
Northern Illinois' greatest football achievement will likely come at the expense of Oklahoma.
The Sooners (10-2) won a share of the Big 12 title and lost only to Notre Dame and Kansas State. The Wildcats earned the Big 12's automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl, but the Sooner seemed like a lock to get an at-large bid — most likely to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to play Florida.
But NIU gobbled up what would have been an at-large spot. Florida is expected to be selected by the Sugar Bowl as an at-large team and Oregon is expected to be picked by the Fiesta Bowl.
With NIU heading to the Orange Bowl, Louisville, the Big East automatic qualifier, is likely to land in the Sugar Bowl.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed.
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