The good news for the BG football team is that the Falcons have secured a post-season bowl berth by winning the Mid-American Conference's East Division title. But what bowl is the Falcons' final destination? Good question (NOTE: Saturday update at bottom).
Before I go any deeper, let's get something straight: This is called the "silly season" for a reason. Some times logic and common sense are thrown out the window. So we'll try to use a little common sense, realizing that it may not apply here.
Let's get started with some of the projections by football media around the country. A few notes: I didn't use every projection available; I tried to use projections made by people I thought might have some insider information on the process. So here we go ...
Athlon Sports: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl v. UNLV. Click here to read the entire bowl projection.
CBS Sports: GoDaddy Bowl v. Arkansas State. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
College Football News: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl v. Boston College. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
ESPN (Brad Edwards): Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. UNLV. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
ESPN (Mark Schlabach): Little Caesars Pizza Bowl v. Pittsburgh. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
Phil Steele: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl v. San Jose State (sound familiar?). Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
Sports Illustrated: Poinsettia Bowl v. Utah State. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
USA Today: GoDaddy Bowl v. Arkansas State. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
So what do we have? Three of the eight predict the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, two predict the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, two predict the GoDaddy Bowl and one predicts the Poinsettia Bowl. Clearly there is no consensus.
Here are a few things to consider as we march towards a solution. First, much depends on whether the Falcons win or lose Friday. If Northern Illinois wins, they are practically BCS Bowl bound (and probably headed to the Fiesta Bowl). Click here to read more about the courtship of the Huskies by the Fiesta.
If Bowling Green wins the MAC championship game, NIU will not be heading to a BCS bid. That leads me to a second point of information: How does the Mid-American Conference distribute bowl bids?
The MAC has three sure bowl bids (the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl). The MAC has four "secondary" agreements stating the league will fill bids with bowls that can't get another league to fill its responsibility. In this instance, it looks as if no more than two of those secondary agreements will come into play, the Poinsettia Bowl and the Beef 'O' Brady Bowl. So that means the probability is high that only five MAC teams get bids, especially since several leagues, most notably the ACC, have more bowl-eligible teams than bowl bids, making the ACC schools available to fill openings other leagues can't feel (the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is a perfect example, as the ACC is expected to fill the bid the Big Ten can't handle).
Here's where things get tricky. I believe the order the bowls will select MAC teams is the GoDaddy Bowl first, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl second and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl third. That doesn't mean the GoDaddy automatically gets the team it wants; often the bowls will work with the MAC office to get a good "fit" for all of its teams ... meaning, just to use an example, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl may choose a team close to Detroit to try to boost attendance, ranther than picking the "second" best team on the MAC's list.
Also, both the bowls and the MAC are cognizant of "match ups," meaning the MAC wants its strongest teams facing the best competition. Again using the LCP Bowl as an example, the fact that an ACC team is likely to come to Detroit means the MAC will want one of its strongest teams at Ford Field to face them. If NIU is in a BCS Bowl, that would likely mean either Ball State or Bowling Green would be pushed to Detroit.
Make sense? I hope so, because now things get really tricky. The sticking point is how MAC teams are ranked. ... The consensus is that Northern Illinois is the "top" team, followed by Ball State and Bowling Green on a second tier, then Buffalo and Toledo on a third tier. Cutting to the chase, I would be surprised if Central Michigan or Ohio receive bowl bids this year.
Read this article to get a sense of how Ball State is viewed by the bowls.
If NIU is not in a BCS Bowl (and "available"), I would think the Huskies would be headed to the GoDaddy Bowl. If NIU is in a BCS Bowl, it will depend on whether the GoDaddy Bowl considers Ball State or Bowling Green the better draw (and that's a tough one to answer). In that instance, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl may push for a particular team to come to Detroit and face an ACC team (which would be considered a stronger opponent than Arkansas State, which has accepted a bid to the GoDaddy Bowl).
Long story short: the only way Bowling Green would slip past one of those two bowls, in my opinion, is if NIU does not make the BCS. If BG beats the Huskies, and the LCPB decides it would rather have Ball State (which might make sense if you consider it may be difficult to sell tickets to a SECOND Bowling Green game at Ford Field in three weeks), that would be the scenario that would send BG to Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
But remember, this is called the "silly season." That means all this may change in the blink of a eye. But it's fun to talk about, isn't it?
UPDATE (Dec. 7, 1:30 p.m.)
Well, as you all know, the Falcons defeated Northern Illinois to win the MAC championship game and knock the Huskies out of the BCS bowl picture. Here is what I'm hearing ... Northern Illinois will be going to the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Nothing official, mind you; just a hunch and a whisper.
My prediction is that the Falcons will be offered a bid to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit's Ford Field on Thursday, Dec. 26, at 6 p.m., for several reasons. First, Bowling Green's sales of 4,000 tickets and 10 busses worth of fans to the MAC championship game obviously appeals to the bowl people. Second, the Falcons would be a worthy opponent for the ACC team that I expect will be in the contest (the two schools I hear most in that regard are Pittsburgh and Syracuse, in that order). The MAC would like a strong opponent to face a team from a BCS conference, and the Falcons win over NIU fits that bill. Third, BG certainly made a splash Friday night, beating a nationally ranked team on television. Bowl officials would hope that would help spur ticket sales in Detroit.
So, for those reasons, my GUESS is that the Falcons will be invited to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Remember two things: First, this is a guess. Second, it's the "silly season," and things can change in a moment. We will all find out for sure Sunday.