34F Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Kent State and Northern Illinois each are enjoying record-breaking seasons after running the table in the Mid-American Conference.
There may be much more on the line than just the MAC championship when the 18th-ranked Golden Flashes face the No. 19 Huskies on Friday night at Ford Field.
The champions of the so-called major conferences - Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC - receive automatic bids to a BCS game, and the remaining at-large invitations are normally given to members of those leagues.
The winner of Friday's MAC title game, though, could be an exception. If a champion from the mid-major conferences is ranked in the top 16 and above a champion from an automatic-qualifying conference in the final BCS standings, the mid-major champ receives an automatic BCS bid.
The MAC is among that group, and the Big East currently isn't represented in the BCS rankings.
Kent State (11-1, 8-0) enters Friday's showdown ranked 17th in the BCS, with Northern Illinois (11-1, 8-0) ranked 21st.
Golden Flashes coach Darrell Hazell refuses to let himself or his players get ahead of themselves, though.
"I won't talk about that at all," Hazell said when asked about the BCS. "I'll talk about Northern Illinois, that's the most important thing. If our guys don't focus on this game Friday then we have no opportunity to play in some of those big games.
"This is a huge, huge game for this university. There's going to be two good football teams on the field and it's going to be one of those games that comes down to the last few minutes."
No matter Friday's outcome, Kent State, which possesses two 1,000-yard rushers in Dri Archer (1,373) and Trayion Durham (1,199), is guaranteed to play in its first postseason game since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl after the best regular-season in school history concluded with a 28-6 win over Ohio on Saturday.
Northern Illinois also has set a school record for victories and will be seeking its second straight MAC title behind coach Dave Doeren. It has won 16 consecutive conference games and is appearing in a third straight MAC championship, splitting the last two after scoring 23 unanswered second-half points to beat Ohio 23-20 in 2011.
"It means a lot to be a part of history," Doeren said. "Anytime you do something that has never been done, that's pretty special."
Jordan Lynch, who is being advertised by the school as a Heisman Trophy candidate, set an FBS record for a quarterback by rushing for at least 100 yards in 10 consecutive games.
He's one of the country's top dual-threats, throwing 23 touchdowns to only four interceptions while running for another 16 scores. He has a 400-yard passing game to go along with a 200-yard rushing game to his credit.
Lynch, who ranks third in FBS averaging 363.4 yards of total offense, said he's up for the challenge of facing Kent State, which ranks second in the MAC allowing 129.3 rushing yards per game.
The Huskies averaged a conference-best 245.0 yards on the ground, with the Flashes close behind at 241.5.
"We're excited," Lynch said. "We love the spotlight and the game is going to give us a chance to show what we can do."
Possessing a high-powered offense hasn't made Doeren lose sight of his defense, which ranked third in the MAC giving up an average of 364.8 yards.
"I read a story saying teams that run spread offenses don't have very good defenses," said Doeren, whose team held Eastern Michigan to 227 total yards in Saturday's 49-7 victory. "I wish they would've called me for that story. We've been a very good defensive team this year."
The Huskies held the Flashes to 64 total yards in last season's 40-10 win Oct. 8, 2011, their fifth straight victory in the series. That Kent State team, though, finished only 5-7 - a far cry from this season's success.
"We knew we could do something special," linebacker C.J. Malauulu said. "This is the season we all wanted."