Tag Archives: NIU

Not the Game of the Week: NIU 32 Toledo 27

“I was going to tell you it was low-scoring, but they did just combine for 27 first quarter points.”

I didn’t like the Huskies coming into this one, and the first 15 minutes of play did nothing to alleviate my concerns. Now, I’m not going to make the mistake of comparing the 2015 NIU team with the BCS party-crashers of years’ past. Three losses coming into their Tuesday evening clash with the 7-0 Toledo Rockets is all the explanation I need to offer there, but the Mid-American Conference team that took down Arkansas and Iowa State in consecutive weeks deserves that discussion and comparison.

Despite Boise State and BYU doing the MAC some favors by putting numbers in the “L” column, the battle promised to be of an uphill nature for the Midwest’s1With apologies to Buffalo and UMass other FBS conference. You took down teams from the SEC and Big 12? Well, which ones? Oh…here, have a token spot in our rankings.

Speaking of token spots, the conferences that we haven’t branded “Power 5” get to be the “Group of 5”, and they get a token spot, not in the playoff to determine our National Champion, but to one of the access bowls, or sites that get to be part of the semi-final and National Championship rotation. As if dealing with the Mountain West’s powerhouses weren’t enough, the bastards of the 2012 Big East have been demoted out of Automatic Qualifier status, so the MAC’s best must be better than the top team from what’s now called the American Athletic Conference.

In the inaugural 2015 College Football Playoff Rankings, Matt Campbell’s Toledo program was rewarded with a #24 ranking, 11 spots behind undefeated Memphis, 2 spots behind 1-loss Temple, and a slot above unbeaten Houston2All from the AAC. Toledo was the only other team from the Group of 5 in the rankings, blessed enough to share space with cartel juggernauts, such as UCLA and Northwestern.

On the field, NIU kept catching breaks, like the time when Tommylee Lewis got behind the Toledo secondary for the Huskies first touchdown of the night, or yielding just five yards to Phillip Ely and the Rockets offense after Kenny Golladay fumbled in his own territory after a first down catch-and-run from Drew Hare.   After our first quarter of Tuesday Night #MACtion in 2015, the underdog trailed 17-10, not quite the 21-14 count we got in NIU’s 2011 63-60 victory on the same field. Of course, for all of the breaks Rod Carey’s squad caught, they got broken quite a bit.

Lewis, NIU’s big playmaker early, and starting quarterback Drew Hare both went down in the first half, but backup Ryan Graham proved to be quite capable, despite ESPN’s announcing crew selling it like he’d never played football before. However, it wasn’t just the injury bug hurting the visiting team on Tuesday night.

Toledo won the game in the trenches early, with both Terry Swanson and Kareem Hunt easily eclipsing the century mark with rushing yardage. Every time it appeared the undefeated Rockets would pull away, NIU would come up with a big stop or a turnover. Despite the fact NIU had problems finding the endzone without the services of 5th-year player Lewis, kicker Christian Hagan kept the wounded Huskies alive with four field goals, which allowed them to chip away at a lead the Rockets held until Graham hit Golladay for the game-winner with two minutes left.

Now, Toledo can kiss their access bowl dreams goodbye, and the MAC’s western division is now a four-team race between them, the Huskies, and two directional Michigan schools3Eastern Michigan need not make travel arrangements for Detroit.

   [ + ]

1. With apologies to Buffalo and UMass
2. All from the AAC
3. Eastern Michigan need not make travel arrangements for Detroit

NIU Gambles on Game Out West

Bet it all on red, or bet it all on black. Either way, it works for Northern Illinois, as they travel west to take on UNLV in non-conference play this weekend. For the Huskies, being undefeated and dismissing any Big Ten foe that dare invite them to play in September has become old hat, but the rules tend to change when they venture into Pacific time.
Never mind a pair of victories in Moscow, Idaho since 2007; traveling west has been a hit and miss deal, at best, since I’ve become acquainted with the Northern Illinois football program over the last decade. They’d just as soon forget about the 37-7 loss to TCU at the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in 2006, but their 7-point loss to Utah State in their return to Qualcomm Stadium for the Poinsettia’s 2014 chapter still has to linger.
After the program’s first undefeated regular season in Division I, only Bowling Green stood between the Huskies and their second consecutive BCS bid last December. Their loss to BG in the conference championship was the letdown, and if you subscribe to the Alabama fan school of thought on bowl defeats, you could mitigate the worse-than-the-final-score-might-indicate loss to Utah State as a game the players couldn’t care enough about. I don’t know if I necessarily buy that, but it does tell you a little bit about where the NIU football program is, and just how far they’ve come in a short period of time.
In 2003, a team that featured future-NFL running back Michael Turner began the season 7-0, with notable wins over Maryland and Alabama. They’d lose to Bowling Green to spoil their perfect season, and then again to Toledo later in the season, but there would be no bowl for this 10-2 team. The next season, Maryland would return the favor, handing the Huskies a 23-20 loss in College Park in the 2004 opener, but Turner and company would survive losses to Iowa State and Toledo (always Toledo!) for a 9-3 finish and a trip to San Jose for the Silicon Valley Classic.
This was a big deal, the school’s first post-season action since their 1983 California Bowl victory over Cal State Fullerton. Especially after being denied a bonus game the previous year, it was something for the student body in DeKalb to be excited about. In a torrential Northern California downpour, one that led to mudslides, they ran away with a win over the Trojans from Troy, an essentially unknown mid-major program from Alabama.
These days, the Huskie faithful are disappointed when their small, yet prominent, teams struggle with Big Ten programs like Purdue and Northwestern. Frankly, they expected a better showing from their eventual Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch and the team in a loss to Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl. It’s worth noting that Florida State team still hasn’t lost a game since before their 31-10 win over the MAC’s only BCS party crasher in 16 seasons.
That brings us to this weekend, where a Runnin’ Rebel program that, to put it bluntly, isn’t very good awaits them. Granted, we only have a small sample size to go on in 2014, but UNLV squeaked by FCS program Northern Colorado at home last week and didn’t appear to be anything special in shellacking at the hands of Arizona in Tucson to start the season.
As it applies to brand name programs, and more specifically brand name conferences, the Mountain West opponent won’t jump off the page when you look at NIU’s 2014 schedule. Considering they took it to the Big Ten a week ago and the SEC awaits them next week, the thought of being dominated by the MWC’s runner-up in a December bowl last year will certainly be overlooked by most. However, in the grand scheme of things, they need to win every week they play, given these new lofty expectations hung on them. Style points shouldn’t matter if you win all of your games, but just “getting by” a weak UNLV program will be frowned upon, should the Huskies be nationally relevant, with a zero in the loss column in December, and perhaps January.
So bet on red or bet on black, but be sure to bet on NIU, even though every week has the potential for a letdown.
***Photo credit: Chicago Tribune***

A Look Back at the MAC

2003 was an amazing season for the top teams in the Mid-American Conference. It was a season that ended with Miami University pounding on the door of the BCS. The Redhawks ran the table in the MAC and lost only once overall. Bowling Green finished second in the conference, losing to Miami in the title game. The Redhawks finished their dream season with a #10 ranking in the Associated Press poll and won the GMAC Bowl versus University of Louisville. They silenced their critics by thumping the Cardinals by a final score of 49-28. The MAC made a statement to larger schools in 2003: we may not beat you all of the time but we will give you a fight and sometimes our fight will prevail.
Louisville, Northwestern, Purdue, Maryland, Bama, Iowa State and University of Cincinnati all fell victim to either Northern Illinois, Bowling Green or Miami. It still brings a smile to my face when I remember how NIU beat Bama at Bryant-Denny. Perhaps a few crazed Tide fans had to be talked off the ledge on that day. A second bowl victory was also tallied for the Mid-American when Bowling Green beat Northwestern University in the Motor City Bowl. BG quarterback Joshua Harris made a killing in the game and showed why he was one of the conference’s top players in 2003. Both Miami and Bowling Green really put the MAC on the map and NIU chimed in as well by beating Bama, University of Maryland and Iowa State University.
What made 2003 such a special year for the conference? Great coaching played a part but the obvious factor was player talent. Everyone knows about Roethlisberger and Jason Babin, both went on to star in the NFL. Personally, as a female, I am not the biggest fan of Roethlisberger but there is no denying he is probably the best QB ever to come out of the MAC. Babin has also had a long and successful career in the league terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.

Notable Players from the MAC in 2003:

Bruce Gradkowski (University of Toledo)
Joshua Cribbs (Kent State University)
Michael Turner (Northern Illinois University)
Lance Moore ( University of Toledo)
Joe Staley (Central Michigan University)
Shaun Suisham (BGSU)
Charlie Frye (University of Akron)
Nick Kaczur (University of Toledo)
Jacob Bell (Miami University)
Greg Jennings (Western Michigan University)
Joshua Harris (BGSU)
Chase Blackburn (University of Akron)
Atari Bigby (University of Central Florida, no longer in the conference)
A few guys from this list standout in my mind. Bruce Gradkowski, Lance Moore, Joe Staley, Greg Jennings and Chase Blackburn have all enjoyed long careers in the league. All of these guys have reputations for being tough competitors among teammates and coaches in the NFL. They also contributed to the success of the Mid-American in 2003 and made the conference an exciting brand of football to watch for viewers. The 2003 season was just another example of how unfair the BCS system was for mid-major conferences in collegiate football.
Unfortunately, Miami had to experience this unfairness first hand. The MAC had major talent in 2003 and I would be willing to bet that the Redhawks would have been prepared enough from their regular season to face off against any big time school in a BCS bowl. It’s just a shame they never got that chance.

Graduation Day: Jimmie Ward

The San Francisco 49ers selected safety Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois University in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The hard-hitting safety is the second highest drafted player in the history of NIU football, not bad for the two-star, undersized recruit from Mobile, Alabama. A three year starter at defensive back, Ward also earned first team all-MAC honors twice in his NIU career. I have seen him play many times and let me tell you, what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in speed. A ball hawk with great hands, Ward was selected as a third team All-American by the Associated Press his senior year. He is such a skilled athlete that, barring injury I would be shocked if he was not great in the NFL.

jimmie ward

Ward often played nickel at NIU and this will help him tremendously in San Francisco’s defensive scheme according to ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Defensive coaches in the NFL love versatility and Ward was probably the most versatile defensive back in the Mid-American Conference this past season. He can play safety, he can play corner and he is a tough competitor who is very coachable. NIU head coach, Rod Carey, has often remarked that Ward is a great listener. On the national level, Ward was one of the best safeties in the 2013 season; as he picked off seven passes (second in the country) and was a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

Yes, he may be undersized for the NFL at 5’10”, but this kid plays with a ton of heart and determination. He also knows how to makes big plays in big games with 14 tackles in the Orange Bowl against FSU and six tackles and an interception in this year’s bowl game versus Utah State. He is just one of those guys who is a game changer; after watching him play it’s clear he has a presence on the field and has the ability to make an impact especially late in close games. His NIU career numbers speak for themselves; 320 tackles, 37 passes defended and 11 interceptions. Ward’s greatest attribute is probably his speed and it will translate well in the NFL.

Ward was also known for his consistent play in college after missing only one game in all four seasons at NIU. He’s a gamer who played hurt for much of his senior year. Ward was also a stud on special teams, earning special teams player of the year his freshman season and he also broke the school record for blocked punts during his career. Coming out of high school in the football Mecca of Mobile, Alabama, Jimmie Ward was not even given a glance from college recruiters. He was overlooked due to his smaller stature and his high school head coach, Fred Riley, had to work hard just to get the ear of mid-major schools like NIU.

Big time SEC schools lost out and whiffed on Ward but it all worked out at NIU, Ward was a great fit for their five-man secondary set and he flourished at the safety position. The Huskies will miss his leadership on defense, Carey has said that Ward’s leadership and play, especially as a senior, was “off the charts”. One of the best safeties to ever play in the Mid-American Conference, the defense will definitely feel the loss of his play in 2014. Look for him to make an immediate impact this coming NFL season with the San Francisco defense. With his ability to play nickel, it would not be out of the question for Jimmie Ward to earn a starting spot on the 49er secondary in his rookie year.

Jordan Lynch, Bear Down

A look back on NIU’s Jordan Lynch and his future as a Chicago Bear

It happened. Today the Chicago Bears signed Jordan Lynch as an undrafted free agent. My phone literally blew up with stories and content about Lynch. Texts, tweets, snapchats – you name it and I received it. Jordan Lynch was signed by MY hometown Bears. What a dream.

Jordan Lynch

Since the ascension of Chandler Harnish to the NFL as “Mr. Irrelevant”, Lynch has had huge shoes to fill. Yeah, he played well in the GoDaddy.com bowl, where he replaced Harnish who suffered an injury, but I didn’t think he had it in him. Seeing him during the spring game, my only thoughts were “oh god, his throwing mechanics are terrible”. Chandler Harnish was my world, and I was not about to let Jordan Lynch take that over.

I’ll never forget the first game of the 2012 season. Ever. Soldier Field. The Iowa Hawkeyes. A B1G Ten foe. Bright lights. It was a massive scene for Lynch to step into. My nerves were through the roof. Could he do it? Would he fill Harnish’s shoes? Could he even fit the same size shoes? I didn’t think so, but was hopeful because I loved my Huskies and hated the B1G Ten.

Well as the story goes, Lynch was exposed as a passer but my god he turned the Iowa defensemen into his personal blocking dummies. Despite going 6/16 passing, Lynch exploded for 119 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. It was incredible. Jordan is a big boy and we all knew it, but we didn’t think he’d bowl over Iowa like that.

I still wasn’t convinced though. He still wasn’t my Chandler Harnish. He looked downright terrible as a passer. How could we survive the season? How could we beat anyone in the MAC? Hah. Haaaaaah. We know how the season ended. Northern Illinois ended up ripping off 12 straight wins en route to an Orange Bowl berth and shocked the college football world.

“Northern Illinois? Are you Kidding me?”
–Kirk Herbstreit

Despite keeping close with the Florida State Seminoles through 2 and a half quarters, a late interception doomed the Huskies to a 31-10 defeat. That didn’t keep Lynch from amassing staggering numbers, though. 3138 yards passing on 25 TD and another 1815 yards rushing on 19 TDs. ONE guy.

Video game numbers. Watching Lynch evolve into that monster was incredible. He went from a frazzled new starter against Iowa to a grizzled and hardened leader who lit up (Akron) safeties for breakfast. Little did Huskie Nation know that it was only the beginning.

The 2012-13 campaign may have ended on a sour note, but the 2013-14 Huskies hit the ground running. NIU exacted sweet revenge after visiting the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first game of the season and eventually ripped off an impressive 12-2 season. With losses in the Mid American Conference Championship and Poinsettia bowl, it would have been easy to overlook Lynch and the Huskies. But that didn’t happen. Lynch amassed an incredible 2982 pass yards on 24 TDs and 1920 yards rushing on 23 TDs and played through injuries that hampered his play all year.

It is no secret that Lynch is a monster in the field, as an athlete, in the weight room. I don’t have to talk about that. I do find it curious, though, what the Chicago Bears are going to do with him.

If I had a dollar for every person that asked “Do you really think Lynch is gonna play QB in the NFL” I’d be a millionaire. And, to be frank, I don’t. I don’t think that Lynch has enough of a passer in him to succeed in the NFL, especially with how poor his reads can be. Jordan thrived in an option offense where running was his default. I have a lot of friends and readers who will probably vehemently disagree with me, and that’s cool. That’s your opinion. I do think, though, that he is going to make it in the NFL.

Lynch is a student of the game. He goes to town on tape, on his opponents, and on his position. He does everything right and does everything to prepare. He is a freak athlete. The Bears may consider playing him in the defense as a DB. That could work, maybe. With a young secondary (outside of Peanut Tillman) I think that Lynch has the possibility of making an impact. I also don’t think that is were he is going to end up. I don’t think you put Jordan in a position where the ball isn’t (sometimes) in his hands.

I think Jordan playing halfback or fullback is very possible. He is crazy strong, is not afraid of contact, and runs well with the ball. I can’t count the number of defensemen that I’ve seen him bowl over. I think it’s almost an obvious choice. Now, the Bears have 4 RB on the roster already (Carey, Draughn, Ford, Forte) but he could work his way into the system. Forte is entering his 8th year as a back and the other three have a combined 4 years experience. There is room for Jordan to make the roster, that’s for sure.

Jordan Lynch has been one of my favorite NIU athletes to follow the last few years. He welcomes his critics and is humble to his successes. He’s the kind of guy who quietly walks into Hy-Vee and tries not to make a scene (and orders a huge whole-salmon fillet). He has the heart, the mind, and the body for the game. Jordan Lynch will make it in the NFL. Will he make it as a quarterback? Probably not. But he is willing to do whatever the team needs to make it in the NFL. Does it get an better than that?

The Final Weekend

I might as well just get it out of the way; I’m tired of seeing the SEC. I’m tired of seeing them in that pedestal, both figuratively and literally. I’m tired of the talk about how seven or eight teams in the conference are better than the best team from any other. That’s how I feel, and now that it’s out in the open, how I feel doesn’t make me unable to formulate a rational opinion about things, even amidst the personal discontent.
Before I get into that, I want to back up. Friday night, the Mid-American Conference took center stage, and Northern Illinois had one more pit stop on the way to another BCS game, the Fiesta Bowl, aka the game that would be “stuck” with them. With household ties to the MAC school in DeKalb, and a close proximity to University of Phoenix Stadium, the prospect of seeing the Huskies in Glendale was intriguing in a personal level, to say the least. Bowling Green showed up, and while I don’t want to say hat Northern Illinois did not, I’ll just state, Bowling Green was certainly the better team on Friday in Detroit.
NIU was handed it’s first lost, so now the Fiesta Bowl is just “stuck” with Central Florida. Must it always be a directional school?
Central Florida is in, because the committee didn’t know what to do with the birth of the American Athletic Conference, aka The American, so the hodge-podge of Conference USA and orphaned Big East programs were kind of grandfathered into the Big East. Once upon a time, the Big East did include Miami and Virginia Tech, who did play for BCS titles. The Knights of UCF knew they have this one shot at an automatic bid, and once they clipped Louisville, it became a very likely thing.
They’re not a bad team, just three points vs South Carolina from being unbeaten, but no one cares. They had to survive at Temple a few weeks ago, and nothing was impressive today at a very empty venue at Southern Methodist on Saturday. It wouldn’t have mattered; they’ve been slated for the Sugar Bowl for months, and fell to the Fiesta Bowl on Friday night, thanks to Northern Illinois or should I say Bowling Green? Coincidentally, it was UCF’s inability to be ranked above NIU, and Fresno State, prior to them screwing their own pooch in the Mountain West, that allowed the mid-majors to be a real part if the conversation.
There are ten teams in the Big XII, so they just play a nine game slate in lieu of a conference championship, but they had two games that affected the league’s automatic bid on this final Saturday of the season. Oklahoma State had the clearest path back to the Fiesta Bowl, win and they were in. When Oklahoma pulled the upset in Stillwater, it made the Texas-Baylor game into a de facto conference championship game. It was a good story, Texas being in the hunt at the end, considering their poor start and speculation of a coaching change on the horizon, but Baylor rebounded from from their follies in the house that T. Boone built and the Sooners did them a favor at Bedlam. Art Briles and Bryce Petty deserve this chance, and you can’t help but notice how far that program has come on recent years.
The main event offered no promises to its winner. Brando sold it from the CBS remote studio at the Georgia Dome. Gary and Verne sold it in the intro. Nick Saban even went to Indianapolis in December, just to tell ESPN that his league ought not be left out. Buyer beware; undefeated meant more in reality than a single loss of the highest quality to 1 of the nation’s 14 finest teams, God’s gift to football, if you ask anyone south of the Ohio River. Auburn and Missouri scored a boatload of points, but it was Auburn rooting for Michigan State or possibly Duke with their SEC trophy on Saturday evening.
Duke was a fun story, but a 38-point loss to Florida State and Florida State’s presumed berth in the National Championship weren’t exactly unexpected results. Next weekend, Jameis Winston will be awarded the Heisman Trophy, and the Seminoles will a ttempt to end the SEC’s run on January 6th in Pasadena. The ACC has an automatic tie to the Orange Bowl, so the Miami game will get the first chance to fill the void left by Florida State qualifying for the big game.
Ohio State is supposed to be that team, because Ohio State fans ooze cash when they travel. They find themselves in Florida, not California, thanks to Michigan State’s effort in Indianapolis on Saturday. Michigan State is that 1-loss team that gets no respect. Ohio State becomes that 1-loss team that no one wants to care about, but everyone will talk about them, me for no good reason. Thanks to Auburn, Ohio State had a chance to officially end the SEC streak in early December, but they did Auburn the biggest favor of the season with the dude they offered on Championship Saturday.
Is that what Ohio State is? Are they one-dimensional on offense and a sieve on defense, when matched up with balanced run/pass teams or dual-threat quarterbacks? How can you defend the perception on Sunday morning? It may be incorrect, but there won’t be many, if any, accepted rebuttal to Ohio State being fraudulent. They haven’t played anyone in two years, and they lost to the first team that was ever worth a damn. If I were an Ohio State fan, I wouldn’t give a damn or seek the approval from Mark May, Matt Hayes, or Clay Travis. I assume the majority do not.
On the other hand, Michigan State is in the Rose Bowl. I have often seen them close to achieving the feat, but this is actual. One loss is one loss, but because the Spartans wear that Big Ten patch in the jersey, their one loss makes them so easily forgettable, whereas in a certain conference whose geography is south and east of Columbus, Ohio, that one loss is never mentioned and quickly dismissed from relevance. Michigan State will represent the Midwest well against the PAC-12 champion.
As Oregon and Stanford both stumbled to the finish line, an unlikely venue ended up playing host to the PAC-12 Championship, but it worked out for me to take in the action live from Tempe on Saturday night. Stanford was just in the Rose Bowl last year, but they’ve been a fixture in the BCS of late. Arizona State has never participated in a BCS bowl, and their last Rose Bowl was in 1997, two years before the commencement of the Bowl Championship Series. It’s hard to show too much respect for a team that lost to Utah, but they were as dominant against the Sun Devils on December 7th as they were on as September 21st. They play big boy football, and their January 1st tilt with Sparty (by the way, I’m told Michigan State people despise being referred to by the name if their mascot) should be a treat, if you’re a fan if 3 yards and a cloud of dust.
So, all those Spartan-fans-for-a-day got exactly what they wanted. They got the SEC into the title game; I’m not sure it ever mattered which one it was, since all 14 are elite. Florida State stands in the way, Ohio State does not. Alabama won’t have a say either, but Auburn vs Florida State is the right pairing for the title game. I don’t think even the most shrewd gardener could plant that seed of doubt right now, even though someone should speak up for Michigan State…you know, just to mention them.
Our undercard games in Miami and New Orleans will involve Ohio State and Alabama, so those games will have the curb appeal that comes with putting either program on a stadium marquee. You may it like the Fiesta Bowl, but three out of four consolation games promise story-lines and the Championship game is top-notch, if only for the simple fact that an undefeated team has a chance to cure folks like me, those suffering from the worst cases of SEC fatigue.
May the best team win. They all won this weekend, when it counted the most.

Yippie Ki Yay, Mister Falcon

Some might remember this. The old, suitable for basic cable, censored version of Die Hard changed the catch-phrase to “Yipee ki-ay, Mr. Falcon.”
How ugly is that? Was it as ugly as watching Northern Illinois get handled by the Falcons of Bowling Green in Friday night’s MAC Championship? I don’t know, but I don’t like the instant reaction, even though I can’t aruge against it.
photo credit: USA Today
I was more convinced about the legitimacy of the two-time defending Conference Champion this season. They didn’t just hang with a sub-par Iowa team; they went toe-to-toe with the Big Ten’s 4th best team. Their defense was abused at times, but that comes with the territory, when you consider the pace of these MAC games. The whole show went through Jordan Lynch, even if you could make a case for some pieces of the supporting cast, and only one team was able to stop such a one-dimensional gameplan.
That’s not a fair thing to say. Cameron Stingily ran for 1,000 yards, despite having to cede 1,700 yards worth of carries to his sensational quarterback. Tommylee Lewis added a dynamic on Special Teams, and was a bolt of lightning that could either keep defenses honest to something that isn’t Lynch on the draw or get yards in chunks. Juwan Brescasin has done his part, and made a big play or two on Friday, but it just wasn’t enough. Whatever “it” is, the Huskies didn’t have it.

photo credit: Yahoo
Outstanding one-hand grab by Brescasin for the score.

It’s as simple as that; Bowling Green was better. I don’t know if they are better, were just better on Friday, or have been better than Northern Illinois the whole time, but this was the worst case scenario for the MAC and Northern Illinois University. The MAC still stinks, NIU never plays anyone, and undefeated means positively nothing in the Midwest; even if that isn’t really the entire perception, it’s close enough. It was hard to argue that they’ve played anyone, because how do I sell the 4th best team in a conference, when nobody has an inkling of respect for the best team in that very conference?
Michael Turner is just one name, on a long list of NIU alumni to play on Sundays

I don’t know if I can get anyone to understand that Toledo and Ball State are difficult wins, if the masses have already made up their minds that nothing and no one in the MAC mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things. I understand there isn’t a Michael Turner, Ben Roethlisberger, or Jason Taylor in every NFL Draft, but the MAC makes up a decent portion of the NFL population. Forget it. Why should I bother selling this conference? Do the facts not speak for themselves?
47-27 in a game that would draw more first time viewers, being on a cold December Friday night, was the last statement the 2013 MAC Runner-Up wanted to make. It all screams that they aren’t ready for prime time, and that’s not something I want to concede. If not these Huskies, and if not Brady Hoke’s Ball State team of 2008, it may not happen for the MAC. Knocking off Big Ten teams doesn’t speak the volumes that it used to, and until it’s Ohio State, who’s putting any stock into the quality of those “signature wins”? Maybe we should be grateful that the stars aligned, just once in 16 years, for the MAC to crash the party last year. They made it with a loss, and they’ll be the only mid-major to ever do that.
In Dekalb, there’s no Cinderella to this team. That was 10 years and three Head Coaches ago. They went to Tuscaloosa and knocked off Alabama at Bryant-Denny, but I’m obligated to disclose that it was a different brand of Crimson Tide back then. Maryland came to Dekalb that year too; it’s safe to say the Big Ten patches on their jerseys next year will make them allergic to visiting MAC stadiums, going forward. That 2003 team finished 10-2 and did not get invited to a bowl. In 2004, they won the Silicon Valley Classic verus Troy, and have played in a bowl in 7 of 9 seasons, since being snubbed in 2003. That, of course, includes last year’s Orange Bowl appearance.
That’s all well and good, but we tend to get stuck in this what have you done for me lately? mode. You want them to keep moving forward, but sometimes you’re stuck wondering if a BCS game in 2012 was a little ahead of their actual pace. It’s also possible that Florida State was pretty good in January, before anyone knew what a Jameis was.
Instead of setting up Camp Huskie, right here in North Phoenix, we might be watching them play on a blue field, against a 2014 opponent, 4 days before Christmas. At least it’s not Detroit; when I suggested the idea of the Huskies playing in last year’s Motor City Pizza Bowl to a friend, he joked that the players parents wouldn’t even want to travel to Detroit for a second time on December 26th.
Without the BCS, none of the MAC’s tie-ins help them play “anyone”, which is code for a respected team from the cartel. Technically, Purdue is in the cartel, but the elitists laugh at that quality win for mid-majors, year-in and year-out. Virginia, Rutgers, Navy, or even Michigan and Penn State in down years; it’s never good enough. That argument holds water, whether the naysayers want to hear it or not. Losing to a conference peer, with every single thing on the line, that’s what matters. Says them.
There is a truth to be seen in all of this sorrow, this bitter disappointment that turns a Fiesta into a Humanitarian effort and corn chips to cold unwashed potatoes. This is a program that used to celebrate a chance to playa Sun Belt team in a torrential downpour San Jose downpour, just nine seasons ago. They were honored to accept large sums of money and an invite to play in the Big House and at The Shoe in 2005 and 2006. In fact, after Jerry Kill left them high and dry for the greener pastures of Minnesota, they were ecstatic about winning that stupid Potato Bowl with an interim coach.
fiesta huskies
it’d be a lot cooler, if they did.

And, the fans should be thrilled now. We all know how important that zero on the back half of the win-loss record is, and how that one is so much more pronounced, when it comes this late in the season, but this is still a good season for a good team. I might slip up, and qualify it by saying, “by MAC standards,” but why not? No one thinks these guys belong in the Big Ten or Big XII. I’m not sure anyone can say they’re more worthy of membership in the Big Ten than in-state counterparts Northwestern and Illinois, regardless of who beat how many Big Ten teams this season. They’ve been part of a lot of conversations, those discussions that are usually reserved for the big boys had to include the Huskies, or at least Jordan Lynch, this season.
For it to end like this, in humiliating fashion, and on nothing night from Lynch (345 total yards and 3 touchdowns are pedestrian, 2 interceptions equal the sky falling in Lynch’s world) on this stage, just welcomes a feeling of emptiness. It’s now all gone for not; it’s hard to feel any under way. There will be no New Years Day game, certainly no Heisman and even a trip to New York might be a longshot. This is the neighbor’s dogs eating that Christmas Turkey that Ralphie Parker’s father so badly yearned for, but there might be a silver lining. Could Idaho be a fun-filled day of having the entire staff of an Asian restaurant serenade us with ‘Tis the Season?

At least it couldn’t be worse than the dreadful basic cable dub, aimed at good ol’ Mr. Falcon, except that it was. It was profane, watching these Falcons fly by this Huskie secondary; I mean, Bayer was giving me headaches and Matt Johnson stole Lynch’s star on that night.
All of it made for a very cold dark night, here in the desert.