Northern Illinois Huskies

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SEC West, Pac-12 North divisions on the line after Thanksgiving

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After a relatively lackluster weekend of college football, a mix of rivalry games and division races crossing the finish line will be among the many highlights this week. The most notable of those races will be the SEC West and the Pac-12 North, as they will play a role in the greater College Football Playoff picture to various degrees. Throw in the possible Big 12 championship game scenarios and we have some good stuff to look forward to this week.

The ACC and Big Ten championship games are already locked in. Clemson will face Miami and the ACC hopes each will avoid an upset this weekend in order to keep this a potential matchup of top four teams at worst. Wisconsin and Ohio State are set to square off in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship, and that game also figures to play a key role in the College Football Playoff picture.

USC clinched the Pac-12 South and now gets a bye week to prepare for the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans will face either Stanford or Washington State. That opponent will be determined by the Apple Cup between Washington State and Washington. If the Cougars win, they will play USC in the Pac-12 championship game. If Washington State loses to Washington, then it will be Bryce Love and Stanford going against Sam Darnold and the Trojans.

The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn will determine the SEC West Division champion, with the winner advancing to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game to face East Division champion Georgia.

The Big 12 championship game is also still to be determined. Oklahoma will play either TCU or Iowa State, although it is most likely to be the Horned Frogs who will face the Sooners. Iowa State would need a win and TCU to lose to Baylor in addition to a combination of two losses from Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. If TCU beats Baylor, TCU will be in.

The Group of Five puzzle still has a few pieces to figure out as well. Fresno State and Boise State must still learn where their Mountain West Conference championship game will be played. Memphis will play the winner of this week’s UCF vs. USF game, with the location to be determined. Conference USA has FAU vs. North Texas ready to go, but the MAC will have both divisions settled this week. Akron will clinch the East with a win on Tuesday, otherwise, the door will be open for Ohio to grab the division on Friday with a win. Toledo will clinch the West with a win or an NIU loss, while NIU can clinch the division with a win and a Toledo loss.

While it does not play a conference championship game this season, the Sun Belt Conference crown is also up for grabs. Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Appalachian State are all 5-1 in conference play going into this week, leaving the door open for an interesting conference championship situation. Troy will play at Arkansas State, so the winner of that game will finish in no worse than a tie for first place. Georgia State has two games remaining, including this week’s game against Appalachian State. Again, the winner here will be in a tie for first place. Georgia State and Arkansas State do not play this season, so the two could finish with a true split conference championship. Troy and Appalachian State also do not play, presenting another potential scenario for a true split conference championship. But if Troy and Georgia State end the season with the same conference record, then Troy would own the head-to-head tiebreaker for bragging rights. Let’s just get through this week first and then re-evaluate the Sun Belt championship picture with one week of games still to play.

Got all that?

Two weeks from Championship Saturday, here are all of the division-clinching scenarios

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Unbelievably, we’re down to the penultimate full weekend of the 2017 season. And, with that, races for divisional and conference championships are both heating up and winding down — or, in a handful of cases, already settled.

Below is how each of the 10 leagues stands with just two Saturdays remaining before championship weekend.

AAC EAST
The winner of the Nov. 24 USF (6-1) at UCF (6-0) game will win the division, regardless of what happens in UCF’s game against Temple at noon today.

AAC WEST
Memphis (5-1) beat Houston (4-2) in mid-October. Memphis clinches the division with a win in either today’s game against SMU or East Carolina in the regular-season finale, regardless of what Houston does. Houston needs for Memphis to lose both of those games, plus win their final two games Tulane and Navy.

ACC ATLANTIC
Clemson has already clinched the division.

ACC COASTAL
Miami has already clinched the division.

BIG 12
Unless Oklahoma (6-1), which beat both TCU (5-2) and Oklahoma State (5-2) earlier this season, loses its last two games — ROTFL one of them is against Kansas — the Sooners have essentially clinched one of the two spots in the conference title game. TCU needs to either win one of its last two games (at Tech, vs. Baylor) and have OSU lose at least one, or win out regardless of what OSU does in order to claim the other spot. OSU, meanwhile, needs to win out (vs. K-State, vs. Kansas) and have the Horned Frogs lose at least one. West Virginia (5-2), which lost to both TCU and OSU, needs to beat Texas and win at OU while TCU and OSU lose at least one game apiece.

There’s also the possibility that all four teams finish at 6-3, getting there by way of OSU, TCU and WVU winning out.  In such a scenario, Oklahoma and TCU would play for the Big 12 title by virtue of a 2-1 record against the foursome.  At 1-2, Oklahoma State and West Virginia would be eliminated.

BIG TEN EAST
If Ohio State beats Illinois AND Michigan loses to Wisconsin today, the Buckeyes will win the division. If that doesn’t happen, the B1G East race will play out in Week 13. Courtesy of the Big Ten Network, below are all of the scenarios heading into Week 12:

Ohio State (6-1): Win vs. Illinois AND Michigan loss at Wisconsin OR win final two games (vs. Illinois; at Michigan).
Michigan (5-2): Win final two games (at Wisconsin; vs. Ohio State) AND Michigan State and Penn State lose one game.
Michigan State (5-2): Win final two games (vs. Maryland; at Rutgers) AND Ohio State loses final two games.
Penn State (5-2): Win final two games (vs. Nebraska; at Maryland) AND Ohio State loses final two games AND Michigan State loses a game.

BIG TEN WEST
Wisconsin has already clinched the division.

CONFERENCE USA EAST
Florida Atlantic (6-0) clinches the division with a win over Florida International (4-2) later today OR with a win over Charlotte in Week 13 even with a loss to FIU. FIU needs to beat FAU AND Western Kentucky AND have FAU lose to Charlotte as well.

CONFERENCE USA WEST
North Texas has already clinched the division.

MAC EAST
Akron and Ohio are both 5-2, but the Zips beat the Bobcats this past Tuesday night. Thus, Akron wins the division with either a Week 13 win over Kent State OR an Ohio loss to Buffalo. Ohio, meanwhile, needs to win next week AND have Akron lose.

MAC WEST
Toledo (6-1) and Northern Illinois (6-1) are left standing, with Toledo beating NIU in the first week of November. So, Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

MWC MOUNTAIN
Boise State (6-0) beat Wyoming (5-1) Oct. 21. Thus, Boise State wins the Mountain division if it wins its last two games (vs. Air Force, at Fresno State) regardless of what Wyoming does; if it wins one game regardless of what Wyoming does; if it loses its last two games and Wyoming does the same. Conversely, Wyoming needs to win its last two games (vs. Fresno State, at San Jose State) while Boise State loses its last two.

MWC WEST
Fresno State (5-1) beat San Diego State (4-2) Oct. 21. Thus, Fresno State wins the West division if it wins its last two games (at Wyoming, vs. Boise State) regardless of what San Diego State does; if it wins one game regardless of what San Diego State does; if it loses its last two games and San Diego State does the same. Conversely, San Diego State needs to win its last two games (vs. Nevada, vs. New Mexico) while Fresno State loses its last two.

PAC-12 NORTH
And now we come to the somewhat convoluted portion of the program. Stanford and Washington State are both 6-2, while Washington is 5-2. Stanford has beaten Washington but lost to Wazzu, while the Apple Cup awaits next Saturday. So, off we go with how each team can win the division.

Stanford: win vs. Cal in Week 12 AND Washington State loss to Washington in Week 13.
Washington: win vs. Utah in Week 12 AND win vs. Washington State in Week 13 AND Stanford loss to Cal in Week 12.
Washington State: win vs. Washington in Week 13 OR losses by Washington AND Stanford in Week 12.

And, if all three teams finish 6-3? Washington, by virtue of its record in divisional games — 4-1, compared to 3-2 for the others — would get the nod.

PAC-12 SOUTH
USC has already clinched the division

SEC EAST
Georgia has already clinched the division

SEC WEST
This one is really simple: the winner of the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl next Saturday will clinch the division.

SUN BELT
There’s Pac-12 North convoluted, then there’s SBC convoluted. Entering Week 12, this conference has four teams with just one loss apiece — Troy, Georgia State and Appalachian State at 5-1, Arkansas State at 4-1. To make matters even worse, there has been just one game played between the four — Troy beat Georgia State — and just two in the remaining three weeks of the season — Troy vs. Arkansas State, Georgia State vs. Appalachian State. Things will become (a little) clearer after Week 12 play for the only FBS league that doesn’t have a league game to determine a champion.

Lamar Jackson first QB in NCAA history with back-to-back 3,000/1,000 seasons

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Lamar Jackson may not be stiff-armed good this season, but he’s still really damn good.

In Louisville’s win over Virginia Saturday, Jackson passed for 195 yards and ran for another 147.  That gives the reigning Heisman Trophy winner 3,003 passing yards and 1,173 yards rushing this season.

Last year in his run to the Heisman, Jackson was at 3,543 passing and 1,571, which means he’s the first quarterback in NCAA history to hit the 3,000/1,000 mark in back-to-back seasons.

It’s highly unlikely that Jackson will make it back-to-back-back seasons of hitting that standard as he’s expected to leave the Cardinals early and make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft.

Last season, Jackson became the eighth to reach that 3,000/1,000, joining Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (2015), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2012), Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (2012), Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish (2011), Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (2010), Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour (2007) and Texas Vince Young (2005). Young left UT early for the NFL and never had the chance to repeat the feat, while Kaepernick and Lynch did it in their final seasons of eligibility.  All of the others had at least one more season — LeFevour had two — to match it but failed.  Lynch actually came the closest as he ran for a record 1,920 yards in 2013, but finished with just 2,892 yards passing that year.

Should Jackson throw for at least 997 yards in the Cardinals’ last three games, he would join Watson as the only quarterbacks in the 4,000/1,000 club.

In battle of MAC unbeatens, Toledo grabs control of West division with win over NIU

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Thursday night’s MACtion saw a rather significant development when it comes to one of its two divisions.

MAC West rivals Northern Illinois and Toledo each entered Week 10 play an unblemished 4-0 in conference play.  After 60 minutes of action in the Glass Bowl, the Rockets exited with both a 27-17 win and sole ownership of the divisional driver’s seat.

Logan Woodside passed for 361 yards in the win — his second-best this season behind the 458 he put up in Week 3 vs. Tulsa — while Terry Swanson ran for all three of the Rockets’ touchdowns.

With three games left in the regular season, UT essentially holds a two-game lead over NIU in the West.  Games still left on the current leader’s schedule are at Ohio (4-1, tied for MAC East lead with Akron), at Bowling Green (2-3) and Western Michigan (3-2).

Because of the head-to-head tiebreaker, wins in just two of those contests would send the Rockets to the MAC championship game regardless of the Huskies do in their last three games of the regular season.  Toledo has not appeared in the conference title game since 2004, while NIU saw a streak of six straight appearances in that game broken last year.

NIU to unveil statue of former live mascot and very good dog Diesel

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NIU hosts Eastern Michigan on Thursday night with a chance to clinch bowl eligibility on the line for the Huskies. At 5-2 and 3-0 in the MAC, NIU is enjoying a bounce-back season after missing out on the bowl season for the first time since 2007 last season. But the game itself with a chance to keep the hopes of playing for a MAC championship will be a mild side story to the big development of Thursday night’s game because NIU is unveiling a brand new statue of the lovable ex-mascot Diesel.

Diesel was seen at NIU sporting events including football games from 2005 through 2013. The husky became famous for his signature high-fives after NIU touchdowns, and the adorable dog melted the Internet’s hearts with his celebration tradition on the sidelines at NIU games. Diesel passed away in 2015. Soon after Diesel’s passing, fans organized an online campaign to raise funds to erect a bronze statue in his honor

Now, Diesel will be the symbol to honor all live mascots used by NIU over the years. The statue

NIU has continued their tradition of having a live husky mascot at football games and other sporting events. Mission took over the job in 2013 as Diesel’s successor.