When Northern Illinois defeated Kent State in Friday night's MAC championship game, the assumption was that Louisville was headed to the Orange Bowl.
Things changed on Saturday, when everything NIU needed in order to have a shot - especially Nebraska being walloped by Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game - came to fruition. Now, suddenly, the race is too close to call.
Numbers guru Jerry Palm changed his bowl projections early his morning to include Northern Illinois going to the Orange Bowl, but backed off that prediction after the coaches' poll was released.
The coaches poll is out and it's bad news for NIU. Kind of. The current BCS projection has them 17th, but only .005 behind No. 15 UCLA. Yes, you read that right. No. 15. Nebraska has fallen to 16th, wedged in that tight space between the two.
The Huskies only had a 95 point lead over UCLA. That means to catch UCLA, based on my current computer ranking projections, they would need to have a 291 point lead over the Bruins in the Harris poll to pass them. That's an average of a 2.5 spot difference per voter.
Passing Nebraska might now be easier. Again, based on my current computer projections, NIU would need a 394 point margin over the Huskers to pass them in the BCS.
And if the computers projections are closer for NIU, then they need less juice in the polls. One spot in a computer that matters, going either direction, is the equivalent of 29 Harris poll points.
It's stil looking like South Beach is more likely than Bourbon Street, but we're probably not going to know for sure one way or the other until the BCS selection show tonight at 8:30.