Northern Illinois (12-1) will be the first team in Mid-American Conference history to play in one of the BCS bowls — the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl against Florida State (11-2).

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MIAMI — South Florida officially got its 1-2 blockbuster matchup — and a BCS-buster, too.

As expected, No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) will play No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.

That much was a given the moment Alabama defeated Georgia 32-28 for the Southeastern Conference title Saturday in Atlanta.

It is the other Bowl Championship Series game in Miami Gardens that caused a national stir Sunday when the final BCS standings were released. Northern Illinois (12-1) will be the first team in Mid-American Conference history to play in one of the five biggest bowls — the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl against Florida State (11-2).

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Northern Illinois was 21st in last week’s standings and beat Kent State 44-37 in two overtimes Friday in the MAC title game in Detroit. The Huskies jumped to 15th in the final BCS standings.

Northern Illinois’ victory, combined with results such as Texas and UCLA losing and Nebraska getting unexpectedly hammered by five-loss Wisconsin, combined to create a perfect confluence of BCS-busting factors for the Huskies.

BCS rules state any team from a nonautomatic qualifying conference that finishes among the top 16 in the standings, and ahead of a champion from an automatic-qualifying conference, clinches a spot in a BCS game.

Northern Illinois, above Big East champion Louisville and Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the final standings, took a BCS bid away from Oklahoma.

The Sooners, 11th in the final BCS standings, will settle for a trip to the Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, where they will face Texas A&M in a matchup of 10-2 teams.

Texas A&M features quarterback Johnny Manziel, a Heisman Trophy contender.

“We hit a home run today,” Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain said. “When our team-selection committee met for the first time a few weeks ago, we circled this matchup as the one we most wanted, and the cards fell in our favor today.”

Oklahoma split the Big 12 title with Kansas State, but the Wildcats got the conference’s automatic BCS bid because they beat the host Sooners 24-19 on Sept. 22.

Oklahoma is the highest-ranked eligible team for an at-large bid that got left out of the BCS field.

In the other lucrative BCS bowls, Stanford plays Wisconsin in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl; Florida faces Louisville in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl; and Oregon meets Kansas State in the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl.

Eight Pac-12 teams will compete in bowls, including Washington in the Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.

In addition to Stanford, Oregon and Washington, the Pac-12 teams in bowls are UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona State and Arizona.

UCLA plays Baylor in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl; Oregon State meets Texas in the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl; USC has a Dec. 31 date with Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl; Arizona State plays Navy in the Dec. 29 Fight Hunger Bowl; and Arizona opens the bowl season Dec. 15 against Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.

UCLA lost to host Stanford 27-24 Friday in the Pac-12 title game.

“I love the idea of staying in Southern California,” first-season UCLA coach Jim Mora said of playing Baylor in San Diego.

As for the BCS title showdown, some early Las Vegas lines had Alabama favored by as many as 10 points.

“I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that it really doesn’t make any difference how many game-winning shots you made in the past,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “The only one you’ve got to focus on is the one you’ve got to shoot right now. To me, Notre Dame and Alabama probably have, from a tradition standpoint, as much, with coach (Bear) Bryant and all the great Notre Dame teams of the past, as there could be.

“And for those two storied programs to play in a national-championship game makes it even more special.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said, “Certainly the tradition of Alabama and Notre Dame bring special attention. But we’re just trying to be the best team on Monday, Jan. 7, and all of that tradition and what’s happened in the past is not going to help us Jan. 7.”


• South Florida fired coach Skip Holtz, who was 16-21 at the Big East school — including 3-9 this year. The 48-year-old son of ex-Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz gets a $2.5 million buyout.

BCS standings
Through Saturday’s games
Team (last week) Avg.
1. Notre Dame (1) .9978
2. Alabama (2) .9441
3. Florida (4) .8984
4. Oregon (5) .8621
5. Kansas St. (6) .8226
6. Stanford (8) .7683
7. Georgia (3) .7583
8. Louisiana St. (7) .7511
9. Texas A&M (9) .6756
10. South Carolina (10) .6604
11. Oklahoma (11) .6502
12. Florida St. (13) .5047
13. Oregon St. (15) .4716
14. Clemson (14) .4693
15. Northern Illinois (21) .3276
16. Nebraska (12) .3264
17. UCLA (16) .2872
18. Michigan (19) .2537
19. Boise St. (20) .2513
20. Northwestern (22) .2327
21. Louisville (NR) .1808
22. Utah St. (24) .1787
23. Texas (18) .1519
24. San Jose St. (25) .1346
25. Kent St. (17) .0772
BCS Average is calculated by averaging the percent totals of the Harris Interactive and USA Today coaches polls and computer rankings.
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