After week five, there is a Mid-American Conference team in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
After its 55-24 blowout of Purdue, Northern Illinois will see nothing but MAC opponents, including Central Michigan, as it begins the rest of its season ranked No. 23 in the nation.
One season after being the first team in MAC history to be in a BCS bowl game, the Huskies became the first team to beat two Big Ten teams (Purdue and Iowa) in the same season, with both games on the road. It’s hard to imagine them improving on the best season in MAC history, but it looks like they have.
It’s rare that you see a team improve after losing a head coach (2012 head coach Dave Doeren left for North Carolina State), but that has happened under new head coach Rod Carey.
It all starts with senior quarterback Jordan Lynch who as a junior, was seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Through four games last season, his Huskies were 3-1 and Lynch went 57-for-100 (57 percent) for 825 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and ran for 500 yards and five touchdowns.
This year, NIU is 4-0 and Lynch is 81-for-125 for 869 yards (65 percent), 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and ran for 468 yards and three touchdowns. In his last game against the Boilermakers, he played a little over one half.
Lynch has improved his passing game and remains a threat on the ground. If there was ever a MAC player who truly deserved to be in the running for the prestigious award, it’s Lynch.
Eight MAC games stand in the way of them running the table and creating yet another BCS controversy. Those eight teams combine for a record of 11-27 (.289 winning percentage).
There are really only two games that could trip up the Huskies, and they come in back-to-back weeks.
Nov. 13 against Ball State at home, and Nov. 20 at Toledo.
If you ignore those two teams, NIU’s opponents combined record drops to 5-23 (.179 winning percentage).
The Huskies crashed the BCS last season due to a rule that states if a non-BCS conference champion is ranked in the top-16 at the end of the season and two BCS conference champions aren’t, then that non-BCS team receives the spot.
NIU beat Kent State in the MAC championship, while Big Ten champions Wisconsin and Big East champions Louisville were ranked behind, meaning the Huskies took over what would’ve been an at-large spot.
It’s likely the Huskies go undefeated this season. Last year, they went 12-1 in the regular season, but it’s unlikely the get that BCS position.
Hopefully, CMU fans aren’t expecting too much out of the Chippewas on homecoming because NIU is coming to town. But then again, who knows? Last time NIU came here, the Chippewas pulled off the 48-41 upset.