The Northern Illinois Huskies (12-2, 8-0 MAC) had their best season in school history last year: they won the MAC West division for the third consecutive season, recorded back-to-back MAC championships, posted a school-record 12 wins, made their first BCS bowl appearance and finished ranked – No. 22 – in The Associated Press postseason poll for the first time.
To say the least, the expectations for the Huskies this season are extremely high. If they want to crash the BCS for the second season in a row, they must go undefeated, winning big in the process.
Without going into an in-depth game-by-game look at their schedule, there are a few possible hiccups for the Huskies – at the Kent State Golden Flashes and at the Toledo Rockets. It seems to be an overall easy schedule for the Huskies – the fifth easiest schedule of all 126 teams – which actually works to their disadvantage.
Going undefeated may not be enough for the Huskies. In order to qualify for a BCS bowl again they must 1) finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or 2) finish in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and be ranked higher than at least one AQ conference champion. If the Huskies do in fact go undefeated, their best bet to make back-to-back BCS bowls may be to blow out a majority of their competition, hoping the style points draw more attention to them.
Led by senior quarterback Jordan Lynch, the Huskies return 55 letterman and 16 starters – including all five starters on the offensive line – from last season’s historic team. And new head coach Rod Carey being an “offensive guy” only helps the team on that side of the ball.
The Huskies averaged 38.6 points per game last season, while surrendering only 19.9 points per game. They return only five starters on the defensive side of the ball, which may actually force the offense to be even more explosive while the defense finds its footing. If the Huskies can find a good balance on both sides of the ball and go undefeated while posting large margins of victory – with a little help along the way from some AQ teams – they may find themselves back in a BCS bowl, preferably with a better outcome.