Don’t look now, but the Northern Illinois Huskies have won 11 straight games. They defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles 49-7 in a snow filled affair on Friday. Running back Akeem Daniels ran for 112 yards and four touchdowns, while quarterback Jordan Lynch scampered for 107 yards on 20 carries. This sets up a showdown next week in the MAC championship game between the Huskies and the Kent State Golden Flashes. Both teams are 11-1 and a perfect 8-0 in conference play.
The Golden Flashes and the Huskies, ranked #23 and #24 respectively, are two of the best teams nobody is talking about. Now part of the reason is that they haven’t had nearly as tough a schedule as most of the other top 25 teams, and the other is because the play in the MAC, a conference that gets about as much love as a spider you might find in your basement.
Northern Illinois hasn’t lost since week one when they were beaten 18-17 by the Iowa Hawkeyes. Since then they have reeled off 11 straight victories and haven’t scored less than 30 points in a game. They rank in the top 20 in the country when it comes to rushing yards, points for, and points against. Lynch has now run for 100 yards in ten straight games, which is a FBS-record for a quarterback.
Kent State has only lost to the Kentucky Wildcats, and gave the #18 Rutgers Scarlet Knights their only loss of the season. So why don’t these teams get more respect? Well the easy answer is that they can’t compete with the big conferences. The two combined losses they suffered came against a weak Big 10 team and a weak SEC team. So the natural assumption is they can’t play with the big boys.
All of this just gives more credence to the belief that super conferences will soon rule college football. No matter how good you are in the MAC or the Big East, a one loss or undefeated team from those two conferences is unlikely to see a ranking in the top ten. Even with the playoff system that is set to come into play in 2014, a Kent State or Northern Illinois won’t even sniff it. It would have to expand to 16 teams for one of those schools to even have a shot at a national championship.
In the next ten years we will probably see the fall of the smaller conference, which is sad. The tradition of those schools, as well as underrated rivalries, will certainly fall by the wayside. We are going to be left with four or five massive conferences, and the Big 10 will probably become the Big 20. Being a four loss team in one of those will be viewed more positively than going undefeated in the MAC.
Would the Golden Flashes or the Huskies beat the 2012 Notre Dame Fighting Irish or Alabama Crimson Tide? I doubt it, but it sure would be fun to watch. What makes the NCAA basketball tournament so great is the chance for upsets. Watching a 16 seed compete with a 1, if only for a short while, keeps fans on the edge of their seats. The new playoff system for college football is a step in the right direction, but it’s far from a perfect solution.
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