After watching Northern Illinois throttle Massachusetts, 63-0, Saturday, I wrote a column describing the Huskies as the best team in the Mid-American Conference.
When both major polls came out Sunday, NIU was ranked 26th by the Associated Press and had the same ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll, despite being 9-1 and earning nine straight wins.
The Huskies’ opponent next week, Toledo, is 23rd in the AP Poll, 25th with the coaches.
I’m on record as saying NIU will beat Toledo when the two teams meet on national TV a week from Wednesday. I don’t vote in the AP Poll, but, I don’t think the Huskies should be ranked ahead of the Rockets at this point.
Why, you ask? To me, rankings should be based on what you have accomplished, one of many reasons preseason polls are a complete pile of garbage.
Let’s face it, while the Huskies have the gaudy record, they haven’t really had a signature win. NIU’s three nonconference victories came against Tennessee-Martin, a Football Championship Subdivision school; Kansas, one the worst teams in any of the six BCS conferences; and a two-win Army squad, which also lost to FCS Stony Brook.
The Huskies’ MAC crossover schedule has also been ridiculously easy – Akron, Buffalo and Massachusetts have combined for three wins so far. The Huskies’ best win is a 35-23 triumph against Ball State on Oct. 6. Not exactly a signature victory which MAC teams should need in order to get into the rankings.
Meanwhile, Toledo (8-1) beat a 6-2 Cincinnati team that was in the Top 25 before the Rockets pushed them out. Toledo’s lone loss came to Arizona, a squad currently 5-4 after a tough schedule during its first nine games, in overtime in Week 1. NIU’s one defeat came against an Iowa team that is going to have to work hard to make a bowl game out of a bad Big Ten Conference.
If you’re going to put NIU in the Top 25, who do you take out? Texas Tech (No. 25 in the AP Poll), which has gone 6-3 while playing in the rugged Big 12, with all three losses coming against Top 25 teams?
Mississippi State (No. 22 AP/No. 23 coaches), which has gone 6-2 as a member of the Southeastern Conference? USC? The Pac-12 has been a good league this season, and the 6-3 Trojans have lost to No. 16 Stanford, Arizona and No. 2 Oregon.
What about the school in Evanston: Northwestern (No. 21 in the coaches poll)? The Wildcats beat the same Iowa team the Huskies lost to by 11 points, and stand at 7-2 with losses to two solid teams – Penn State and Nebraska. I couldn’t put NIU ahead of Northwestern at this point.
I’d also rank Kent State, which received 61 votes in the AP Poll this week and 32 in the coaches poll, ahead of NIU. The Golden Flashes lost to a bad Kentucky team, which fired head coach Joker Philips over the weekend, but Kent State won at Rutgers (No. 23 AP/No. 19 coaches) Oct. 27.
This is a good Huskies team, and I think they’ll win the MAC for the second year in a row. Over its nine consecutive wins, NIU has not only beat teams, it has dominated opponents. The Huskies’ average margin of victory during their nine-game winning streak is better than 25 points per game.
The win at Ball State was the Huskies’ last contest which was actually close in the second half.
However, rankings are based on what teams have accomplished, or should be anyways. Right now, NIU hasn’t done quite enough.
Should the Huskies beat Toledo on Nov. 14, I’ll certainly change my tune about NIU being ranked. My opinion could even change depending on which teams lose over the weekend.
Right now, the Huskies are on the outside looking in, which is where they deserve to be.
• Steve Nitz is the Northern Illinois beat writer for the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.