The Northern Illinois Huskies both played and lucked their way into a BCS bowl berth. There's no denying the special circumstances that kept Ohio State out of the college football postseason and allowed teams like Alabama and the Huskies to get bumped into better bowls. SB Nation's Samuel Chi has a brilliant breakdown of the consequences of OSU's ban here.
The Huskies finished at No. 15 in the final BCS polls, making them eligible to play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. But by Chi's permutations, Ohio State's eligibility would have had a ripple effect that could have seen Northern Illinois drop to No. 17. Because the Big Ten title game would have probably featured Nebraska being trounced by the Buckeyes instead of the Wisconsin Badgers, the Cornhuskers likely would have leapfrogged the Huskies.
Ohio State received a one-year bowl ban when players who had committed NCAA violations played in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. The school and head coach Jim Tressell knew of the violations and proceeded to play them anyway. Now new coach Urban Meyer and his players are suffering the consequences of the previous administration.
Northern Illinois obviously could give a flying poo about Ohio State's problems, having won the Mid-American Athletic Conference for two consecutive seasons after going 12-1 in 2012. Their lone lose was an 18-17 nail biter in the season-opener against Iowa.
Funny tidbit: The Huskies can thank they Buckeyes personally, as they are slated to face them in a non-conference game in 2015. A bag of oranges, perhaps?