Northern Illinois, the first team from the Mid-American Conference invited to a BCS bowl game, will face Florida State in the Orange Bowl. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The foundations of the already doomed Bowl Championship Series were shaken last Sunday when the selection committee announced the New Year’s Day Orange Bowl matchup pitting Florida State against Northern Illinois. But fans of the Huskies think their team belongs, and that nothing should be shaking at all. Bill Littlefield spoke with Jeff Arnold of Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Ill. about the local reaction.

“DeKalb is out in the middle of nowhere, basically,” Arnold said. “It’s 60 miles from Chicago, and I think it’s one of those cities where they’re not used to being on a national stage and so it’s one of those things that they’ve embraced here.”

After the Orange Bowl announcement was made, local businesses immediately pushed back against the notion that NIU didn’t belong. The sign at a Marathon gas station in DeKalb read, “Suck our oranges ESPN. Go Huskies!”

When people think of the BCS, they think of Notre Dame and Florida State and Oregon. You say ‘BCS,’ and Northern Illinois really doesn’t roll off your tongue.
– Jeff Arnold, Northwest Herald

“There’s actually a T-shirt company in Tampa, run by a Florida State alum, who actually printed T-shirts with a pretty direct message to Kirk Herbstreit, the college football analyst who said that it was a joke that Northern Illinois was playing in the Orange Bowl,” Arnold said. “People have just found a way to really put a face on some of the national skepticism about Northern Illinois being in the BCS.”

College football analysts have questioned whether Northern Illinois belongs in a BCS bowl, even with a 12-1 record. Arnold said the team thinks they’ve earned it.

“In talking with quarterback Jordan Lynch, he said, ‘All we did was win. And we followed the rules,'” Arnold reported. “So Northern Illinois, I think they’re trying to figure out, ‘What more do we have to do? We won our conference.’ Their only loss this year was to Big Ten [member] Iowa, losing by a point.

“The against is the fact that they’re used to playing in bowl games like the GoDaddy.com Bowl or the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit, or the Humanitarian Bowl,” Arnold said. “When people think of the BCS, they think of Notre Dame and Florida State and Oregon. You say ‘BCS,’ and Northern Illinois really doesn’t roll off your tongue.”

As far as the outcome, Arnold isn’t convinced NIU can pull off an upset.

“I think they’ll find a way to make it close for a little bit,” Arnold predicted, “but I would say, in the end, maybe Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 17.”