BCS bowl overview, 2012
Northern Illinois finished 15th in the final BCS standings, thus earning an automatic seat at the adult table. They will pull Florida State in the Orange Bowl. (Per the selection rules, the Orange Bowl got the last pick this year.) In Sagarin's computer "predictor" rating, NIU was ranked 41st and never played a "top thirty" team all year, but at least they will be more competitive against FSU than they would have been against the powerful Florida Gators.
Speaking of prohibitive underdogs, the tough assignment against the Gators will go to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. Sagarin has Louisville rated 60th with no "top thirty" opponents! I reckon the opening line on that game will be between 2 and 3 touchdowns.
The best of the non-BCS bowls will be the Cotton Bowl, which will pit Oklahoma against Texas A&M. Oklahoma missed a BCS bowl by the narrowest of margins. They would have made the big show if NIU had lost their automatic bid by finishing 17th instead of 15th. And the Sooners will be up against Johnny Football his own self. Each of those teams is ranked better than four of the BCS teams, and the Cotton is probably a more interesting game than three of the five BCS bowls!