Who better than Kirk Herbstreit to serve as the mouthpiece of a scandalized nation? Sunday night, the ex-Buckeye quarterback turned statuesque talking head took to the air on ESPN's weekly BCS standings show to stand as a bulwark against the Series' declining standards, savaging the selection of MAC champion Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl as an "absolute joke." The Huskies' mere presence in a prestige game, he informed America, was an affront the grand tradition of the Orange Bowl, a slap in the face of "more deserving teams" like Oklahoma, and an indictment of a "really a sad state for college football and where we are in the current system." It was an impressive display of get-off-my-lawn angst for a usually mild-mannered presence, one likely to strike a chord among thousands of fans frustrated by the minutiae of the system – where the hell is Northern Illinois, anyway? – all the more so because it had such a tenuous grasp on the system itself.
In the first place, it's not like the Orange Bowl had any say in the "invitation." Under BCS rules, Northern Illinois was guaranteed a slot in one of the big-money games by a) Finishing 15th in the final BCS standings, and b) Finishing ahead of two other BCS-bound teams, Louisville and Wisconsin, that scored automatic bids as champions of the Big East and Big Ten. The Orange Bowl was stuck with NIU because it had the last pick in this year's rotation and the Huskies' inclusion was mandatory.