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.