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Expect Northern Illinois to Breeze through 2013 Schedule

Northern Illinois Huskies

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

While Northern Illinois‘ presence in this year’s Discover Orange Bowl was questioned, the 2o12 NCAA football underdogs finished in two final Top 25 polls in the Associated Press and USA Today.

First-year head coach Rod Carey and quarterback Jordan Lynch will have a relatively easy 2013 schedule, so a third straight appearance in the MAC Championship seems very possible.

Five schools with at least 10 losses are on Northern Illinois’ schedule, including the three worst teams record wise that finished in the bottom half of MAC last season; the UMass Minutemen (1-11), Akron Zips 1-11) and Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-10). But the Huskies will face fellow MAC West teams in the Toledo Rockets and Ball State Cardinals – who both posted 9-4 records in 2012.

Not even the Huskies’ non-conference opponents can salvage a bleakly littered schedule. Two bottom feeder dwellers from the Big Ten — the Iowa Hawkeyes and Purdue Boilermakers — will still be a test for Northern Illinois, but a victory over a Big Ten team won’t be as meaningful as previous Dog Bone victories in the last several years were a much bigger deal for a program that at the time hadn’t experienced the success they’ve achieved the last two years.

Leading up to its spanking on the national spotlight, Northern Illinois’ schedule was up for debate, too. In fact, it was a central point in many non-supporters of the Huskies crashing the Bowl Championship Series, as they certainly had the easiest schedule among BCS teams – and perhaps the entire country.

An easy schedule will help Northern Illinois get another crack at crashing another bowl, but unlikely one of the similar caliber as the Orange Bowl. There hasn’t been much debate if the Huskies deserve to be in multiple outlets’ Top 25 polls, but their presence as one of the better small conference schools can be poked and joked about, but cannot be denied when trying to rank all of the top teams in the nation.

With Lynch in his senior season a roster that returns some underclassmen play makers who’ll have to replace a talented departing senior class, the Huskies have a great chance to take home their third straight MAC Championship in ’13.

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Northern Illinois Huskies Need Offensive Bounceback in Poinsettia Bowl

The Northern Illinois Huskies were one win away from making their second straight trip the BCS in 2013 before running into a brick wall in the form of the Bowling Green Falcons in the MAC Championship game. Bowling Green’s top-ten defense contained the high-powered offensive attack of NIU and upset the Huskies to keep them from busting the BCS yet again. Northern Illinois will have to find a way to bounce back offensively in a hurry, however, as they face another tough defensive challenge in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl against the Utah State Aggies.

The MAC title game was the first time all season long that NIU failed to score at least 30 points in a game. Combined with a rough day on defense, the Huskies faced a lopsided upset loss at the hands of the Falcons thanks to their physical defense which were able to keep Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch somewhat contained and even forced a pair of interceptions out of the offensive leader of the Huskies’ attack.

They will need to figure out what went wrong in a hurry, though, as Utah State brings a similarly stingy defense to the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies rank No. 12 nationally in total defense this season and No. 10 against the run. They have a physical defensive front that helped turn around Utah State’s season after a rough 3-3 start to 2013 that ended up in the Moutain West Conference Championship game in their very first year in the conference.

NIU will be challenged by the Aggies when they square off. If they stumble in the same way they did against Bowling Green, Lynch will leave the Huskies with a disappointing and unsatisfying finale to his collegiate career. Can the Huskies fix what failed them in the MAC title game and come out ahead against Utah State?

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Northern Illinois vs. Utah State 2013 Bowl Game Preview With TV Schedule

Bowling Green Falcons: QB Matt Johnson Outduels NIU’s Jordan Lynch For Upset Victory

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