KENT, Ohio - The Kent State football team hasn't played in a bowl game in 40 years -- the 1972 Tangerine Bowl -- but if the Golden Flashes can win one more, they could be heading to another bowl game named after a similar fruit, the Orange Bowl.
Kent State (11-1) is currently ranked No. 17 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. If the team beats Northern Illinois on Friday night in the MAC Championship Game, and jumps to 16 or higher, the Orange Bowl could come calling with a bid to play in a coveted BCS bowl game.
Second year coach Darrell Hazell said his team is focused on Friday's challenge, but admitted he senses the buzz around campus. He referred to the season as "Cinderella, Rocky (as in the movie) and amazing."
"I think there's excitement not only here on campus, but through the community, through Northeastern Ohio and even across the country. We're getting e-mails from people all over the country," Hazell said.
Kyle Payton, a tight end on the team, said he received a good luck text from a friend he hasn't talked to since elementary school.
"Everybody looks forward to a MAC championship and a big bowl game, but it's incredible to know there's a possibility. It's one step at a time," Payton said.
Orange Bowl officials will be at Friday's game at Ford Field in Detroit.
Kent State's 10-game winning streak, and its steady rise in the BCS standings, give the Golden Flashes a solid shot at a BCS bid, but a win on Friday doesn't guarantee them a spot.
Still, the possibility of Kent State heading to Miami and national exposure has students pumped up.
"It's nuts. It's crazy. I can't believe it," said Miles Wilburn, a KSU freshman.
Josephine Gilliland, a KSU junior and campus tour guide, was very excited on Monday to tell potential incoming freshmen about the the team's national status.
"I have so much Kent State pride and I go to all of the football games. It's really exciting for me, as a junior, to see Kent State go so far," Gilliland said.
One of Kent State's most famous players, Josh Cribbs, has been tweeting his excitement while organizing a bus trip to Detroit to support the football team.
The Cleveland Browns kick returner said 46 seats are available on the bus, and $100 gets you a game ticket, a shirt, beverages and snacks.
In addition, the university is hosting a championship send-off event on Thursday at 9 a.m. inside the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center (MAC Center).
Doors open 30 minutes prior to the event and fans will be handed Kent State postseason rally towels.
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