BOWLING GREEN - The stage officially has been set for one of the biggest games in Mid-American Conference football history.
BG, (6-1, 3-0 MAC) moved into 23rd in the Associated Press poll; the Falcons also are 26th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, just six points behind 25th-ranked Florida. The unbeaten Huskies (7-0, 3-0) are ranked 12th in the AP poll and 14th in the coaches poll.
The last time two nationally ranked MAC teams met was Nov. 10, 1973, when 17th-ranked Miami beat 19th-rated Kent State 20-10.
What's more, BG found out yesterday that ESPN will send both its College GameDay radio and television staffs Saturday to Perry Stadium. The TV show - which features Lee Corso, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit - is broadcast from 10:30 a.m. to noon, while the radio show - which features Dave Revsine and Mel Kiper, Jr. - airs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Fowler and Herbstreit also host a radio show called On Campus that is broadcast from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.
“I told our kids today that they deserve all this [attention],” BG coach Gregg Brandon said. “All of the hoopla is making this into a big game. I don't have to do anything to get [our kids] excited for it.”
The game itself will be broadcast on ESPN2, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. The game will be the first regular-season Saturday MAC game broadcast nationally.
Yesterday's move into the AP poll marked the second straight season the Falcons have been ranked during the regular season. BG was ranked 23rd in the coaches poll and 25th in the AP poll on Oct. 13 of last season, and the Falcons stood as high as 16th (coaches poll) - the highest ranking in school history - before losing at Northern Illinois and eventually falling out of the final poll.
The only other Falcon team to be ranked nationally was the 1985 squad that finished with an 11-0 record but lost in the California Bowl to Fresno State. In the last poll of the regular season that year the Falcons earned the 19th spot in the coaches poll and the 20th in AP.
The Huskies are one of only five Division I-A teams still undefeated this season - the others are Oklahoma, Miami, Virginia Tech and TCU. Northern Illinois' seven-game win streak ties the Huskies with Miami and Virginia Tech as the second-longest consecutive win streak in the nation, trailing only the nine straight won by Oklahoma and TCU.
Brandon said all the activities surrounding Saturday's game makes it exciting, but no more critical than any other conference contest.
“This is no more important than any other MAC game we'll play,” Brandon said. “All of our MAC West [Division] games are important. Central and Western Michigan were big games, and Eastern Michigan was a big game.
“This just happens to be a game against a great football team.”