Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss Northern Illinois’ position in the national rankings.
Jacobson: NIU finished their nonconference schedule at 4-0, the first time they’ve completed a nonconference sweep since 2003. The 55-24 win over Purdue vaulted the Huskies into the Top 25 of the USA Today poll and left them just outside The Associated Press’ poll at No. 26.
If you had a vote in the AP poll, where would you put the Huskies?
Nitz: Unfortunately, I don’t have a vote in the AP poll, but if I did, I’d have NIU right where they are in that poll – 26th. I think the Huskies are right there, but need to do just a little more to be in the Top 25.
I wouldn’t put them ahead of an Ole Miss team (No. 24 in the AP poll) that is 3-1 and whose only loss is to Alabama, like the coaches did. Or unbeatens Maryland (25) and Fresno State (23), who has a win over Boise State. No. 22 Arizona State took advantage of the late-game fiasco against Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, but the win over the Badgers is more impressive than any of NIU’s, and ASU’s only loss is to No. 5 Stanford.
Plus, shouldn’t Arizona State get extra credit for helping get Lane Kiffin fired in a parking lot?
Jacobson: I’m right with you. Although NIU’s nonconference resumé is impressive, it’s not good enough yet for them to be in the Top 25. Purdue might be the worst team in the Big Ten, and I’m not ready to anoint Iowa as a team that’s back and ready to compete in the Big Ten. Remember, last year Iowa was 4-2 and 2-0 in conference before losing its last eight games to better competition.
Every other team in front of NIU in the AP poll can claim a more impressive victory to this point. And when looking at style points, it doesn’t help that NIU had to post comeback wins against Idaho and Eastern Illinois.
Would your mind change with a win at Kent State?
Nitz: Well, my mind will change, but mainly because I see teams in front of NIU losing, which should vault the Huskies into the Top 25. No. 25 Maryland plays at eighth-ranked Florida State this week, and I fully expect a Terrapins loss. No. 22 Arizona State plays at Notre Dame, certainly not an easy opponent.
Right now, NIU’s win over Iowa is impressive, and though Purdue looks terrible at this point, the Huskies got some style points thanks to their complete domination. Kent State is better than its 1-3 record and has its best player back in Dri Archer, but the Golden Flashes aren’t a team we’ll look at a few weeks down the road and say NIU got a huge win.
Should NIU win and Maryland and/or Arizona State lose, I’d gladly slide the Huskies into the Top 25.