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Nitz: Huskies look to join top 25

Last season, Northern Illinois ended the year ranked No. 26 in the USA Today Coaches poll after its Bowl victory. The Huskies were 28th in The Associated Press poll.

It was the same case two years ago, when NIU finished just outside the Top 25 after its Humanitarian Bowl victory. In fact, despite its recent run of success the past decade or so, NIU hasn’t finished a season in the Top 25.

Should the Huskies keep rolling, that will change this season. NIU stands at 6-1 and the Nov. 14 game against Toledo likely will decide which team will represent the Mid-American Conference’s West Division in the league championship game.

NIU has picked up where it left off last year. Quarterback Jordan Lynch has answered the questions about him – and then some. The offense has scored at will, the defense has improved.

This team is one or two plays away from being unbeaten, and looks like it hasn’t lost a step from last season.

With five games to go in the regular season, plus a possible MAC Championship Game, people outside the program are starting to notice as NIU picked up two points in this week’s coaches poll.

Now, NIU coach Dave Doeren does vote in the poll, so who knows, maybe the points came from his vote. I asked him if he would be willing to talk about his vote before the season, when the Huskies received two points in the preseason poll, and he declined, which is understandable.

I didn’t ask him during Monday’s MAC coaches teleconference, because I knew what his answer would be. Votes don’t become public until the final poll before the bowl games.

Either way, the Huskies are starting to get some love, and expect it to continue. We’ll see a few more votes with each victory. As the wins keep coming, the votes will increase from both the coaches and media.

Should NIU run the table the rest of the regular season, the Huskies will probably be ranked by the time their trip to Detroit rolls around. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them featured in one or both polls as the regular season schedule is winding down.

While his team is heading towards a top-25 ranking, Doeren isn’t worried about polls at this point.

“You’d like to think that you’ve earned the respect of the other coaches out there if we continue to do the things we’re doing,” Doeren said during the teleconference. “But, you know, we’ve got to obviously get there before it’s something we’re concerned about.”

I believe you’ll see a ranked Huskies team in a few weeks, and possibly a matchup of two top 25 teams in the MAC Championship – NIU and Ohio.

If only the Huskies would have gotten a victory against Iowa.

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