And let's not forget about Northern Illinois at No. 21, putting two MAC teams above any Big East team. Once I got home and pulled up these standings, I'm not going to lie. After years of hemming and hawing at being on the cursory radar from week to week and seeing reasonable paths to the Orange Bowl, I got a little excited.
No, the Orange Bowl is not a gateway to the national championship, and that's what has always bugged me about the entire process. It's a prominent event, yes, but still part of the sprawling postseason charade known as "bowl season," where for 68 teams all they can do is gain national attention and play it out as a glorified football final exam. And that's fine for them. If the MAC champion draws the ACC champion in Miami then it's probably time for me to accept what it would mean: more money for all MAC teams and credibility yet to be seen for any of their teams in its 66-year history.
And yet ... it's still not a certain outcome. Jerry Palm didn't have much nice to say about the Golden Flashes (Loss to Kentucky! Strength of schedule!) but he's right about Texas perhaps leapfrogging the KSU, or an NIU victory which could lead to more uncertainty.
The possibility is right there. We all see it and it's exciting. But the theme of the season has always been "expectations" and suffice to say, nobody in their craziest peyote-induced dreams had us discussing Kent State as a potential BCS bowl team. This is new ground already, so if the unthinkable doesn't happen, we cannot consider this a letdown — especially when so much is out of their control.