2014 MAC Championship final score: NIU blows out Bowling Green, 51-17
The MAC belongs to NIU once again.
After getting stunned by Bowling Green in the 2013 MAC Championship game, Northern Illinois would get its revenge in the 2014 rematch. After a close game for a couple of quarters, NIU went on to dominate the Falcons, 51-17, to win its third MAC title in four years and extend its recent dynasty of the MACtion era.
The Huskies don’t have the firepower that they had in previous years, but Rod Carey’s offense showed up Friday night. Running back Cameron Stingily had an efficient game, and the defense was dominant in a win that could propel the Huskies into the top 25 and possibly earn them a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.
NIU set another MAC Championship Record with their 51 points.
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 6, 2014
Three things we learned
1. Northern Illinois could sneak into a New Year’s Six bowl with a Boise State loss
A lot has to happen for this to become a reality, but there’s a chance that Northern Illinois could be headed back to a top bowl game for the second time in three years, despite not having as good of a team as either of the past two years. With “Group of Five” teams dropping like flies — including both Marshall and Colorado State — Boise State is the only team from a non-power conference in the current College Football Playoff rankings. By rule, the highest ranked Group of Five champion will make a New Year’s Six bowl.
NIU could potentially sneak into the rankings after the impressive win over Bowling Green, though the Huskies would still be ranked behind Boise State. So if the Broncos lose to Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game — unlikely, given how those two teams are playing — and NIU cracks the rankings, then maybe the Huskies could sneak into a top bowl game.
2. NIU’s dynasty continues
Even with the loss in last year’s championship game, it was tough to say that the Huskies’ dynasty was over. NIU has now gone to five straight MAC Championship Games, winning three of them, and they’re firmly set up for the future with quarterback Drew Hare just a sophomore.
After some rough spots early in the season, the Huskies showed great improvement and were indisputably the MAC’s best team late in the season. Regardless of whether it goes to a major bowl game, NIU is clearly the class of the conference and will be the team to beat for the foreseeable future.
3. What can NIU do out of conference? What didn’t we learn?
This is clearly not NIU’s best team in recent years, and while Hare has shown improvement, he’s not Jordan Lynch or Chandler Harnish. Due in part to the early season struggles, NIU is ranked 76th in the F/+ ratings, including 62nd on offense and 96th on defense. There has been clear improvement, but the overall numbers are still bogged down.
On one hand, we didn’t really learn all that much from this game because we knew NIU was better than Bowling Green. But what we do know is that the Huskies are better than the rest of their conference, and in bowl season, we should get to see where they stack up — with this version of the team — against someone else.
For more analysis, head over to SB Nation’s MAC site, Hustle Belt.