Northern Illinois has clinched a spot in the MAC Championship Game for a fourth straight season after picking up a 35-17 victory at Toledo Wednesday night. Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch passed for 202 yards and rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns to lead Northern Illinois to a big second half to wrap up the MAC West division title.
With Northern Illinois up four, the Huskies took over from inside their own one-yard line. The field position battle would not come in to play, much to the disappointment of Toledo, as Lynch led the Huskies on a 15-play drive for a touchdown going from one end of the field to the other, literally. Lynch completed three of four pass attempts and rushed seven times for 62 yards and a touchdown on the biggest drive of the game. The score gave the Huskies a 28-17 lead and Toledo went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. From there, NIU put the game at a distance by marching right back down field again and capping the drive with a James Spencer touchdown, his second of the night.
Northern Illinois went to the BCS last season but still needs a little bit of help to make a return trip this season despite currently being ranked in a position that would typically send the Huskies to a BCS game. Norther Illinois still needs to pass Fresno State in the BCS rankings, because only one team from a non-AQ conference will be eligible for a BCS spot under the BCS rules. The Huskies (and Fresno State) are both ranked ahead of Central Florida, who appears to be heading to an American championship. If Fresno State or Northern Illinois can finish ahead of Central Florida, the highest ranked conference champion from a non-AQ conference will receive an automatic BCS bid.
With the win, Northern Illinois becomes the first MAC team to reach four straight conference championship games since Marshall played in six straight from 1997 through 2002. No MAC West team has ever played in four straight championship games and the Huskies look to become just the second team to win three straight conference championships.
Northern Illinois will play either Buffalo or Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit. Buffalo won Tuesday night and Bowling green faces Eastern Michigan this weekend. Buffalo hosts Bowling Green on Friday, November 29 in a game that will determine who advances to Detroit to face the Huskies.