The Northern Illinois Huskies have been treated like an unwanted aberration since making the BCS. Al Dannity says the Huskies will earn their respect against Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
It stung. The barbs, the criticisms, the “you don’t belong here” mentality. One voice shouted loudest amongst a cacophony of criticism. Kirk Herbstreit, former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN College Gameday panellist, went full Skip Bayless in his tirade. Herbstreit has never been a cheerleader for mid-majors but he was usually more balanced in tone. Not this time. No he went all out to admonish what the Huskies had achieved. In the process, he did us all a favour.
It’s no secret that this year’s slate of bowl games is one of the most disappointing of recent years. Had NIU been given the respect they deserved by the media at large, the Orange Bowl likely would have been an after-thought. On paper it is classic David and Goliath but without the buzz of Boise State and Oklahoma or Utah and Alabama. You may recall David went 2-0 against Goliath in those games. The unending torrent of criticism didn’t just move those figuratively on the fence or literally in DeKalb, Illinois. College Football fans, passive and active, who previously would have ignored the game suddenly had reason to care. Cinderella doesn’t carry the same charm on the gridiron as it does on the Basketball court but there’s a point where any Football fan will rise up and say “What gives?”
Did you notice the one organisation that shied away from saying anything negative about the Huskies? Florida State knows it’s in for a game in the Orange Bowl and this won’t be a run of the mill MACrifice. The Huskies have become a power in a conference almost designed to be in constant flux. Jerry Kill leaves? No worries, they hire Dave Doeren and get even better. Doeren has found a better job, moving to NC State, meaning Rod Carey’s first game as head coach on New Year’s Day. It may be a baptism of fire but it’s just made for a story.
There’s also the small matter of their immensely talented roster. Jordan Lynch, a dual-threat quarterback, is the star of the show. Earlier this year be became the first player to ever pass for over 400 yards and rush for 150 yards in a game. Lynch gets the headlines but this is a MAC team with a serious defence. Finishing 18th nationally in points against, complementing their 9th ranked scoring offence, this is a monster of a mid-major. The blemish, and it’s a bad one, of losing to Iowa doesn’t take away from an historic season. The Seminoles are bigger and stronger but they are not the second coming of Vince Young’s Texas. David has a shot, don’t ever underestimate him.