Northern Illinois is a 5 1/2-point favorite over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference championship game Friday night in Detroit.
I know, seems kooky for a mid-major ranked 17th in the BCS to be an underdog on a neutral field, in a game in which it could make the Orange Bowl. But Northern Illinois is no stranger to the BCS itself.
The Huskies are 11-1 and ranked 21st. Their lone defeat was 18-17 to Iowa in Chicago. Led by quarterback Jordan Lynch (23 TD passes; 1,611 rushing yards), Northern Illinois has run roughshod over the MAC. Only Toledo came within single digits of Northern Illinois.
Since a 47-14 loss at Kentucky in September, Kent State has reeled off 10 straight wins. The Golden Flashes won 35-23 at Rutgers, which is why the MAC champ, whichever it is, likely will be ranked ahead of the Big East champ, Rutgers or Louisville.
If the MAC champ can finish in the BCS' top 16, it is Orange Bowl-bound. It would be hard for Northern Illinois to jump that far from 21st, but Kent State could do it easily. Let's go with the Golden Flashes in the upset.