NIU looks to clinch spot in MAC title game tomorrow - KMSP-TV

NIU looks to clinch spot in MAC title game tomorrow

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ByJOHN SEEWER
Associated Press


   TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Toledo coach Matt Campbell couldn't stay awake and watch Northern Illinois keep its 23-game winning streak going in the Mid-American Conference last week.
 
   After putting his children to bed, he nodded off during the first half of the Huskies' victory over Ball State.
 
   "I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen," Campbell said.
 
   That's because no one in the MAC has been able to slow down the No. 20 Huskies.
 
   Toledo will get its shot at Northern Illinois (10-0, 6-0 MAC) on Wednesday and a chance to ruin the Huskies' perfect season and hopes for a return to the Bowl Championship Series.
 
   The Rockets (7-3, 5-1) won't only try to play spoiler against the Huskies, who can clinch a spot in the MAC title game. A Toledo victory would put the Rockets in good shape to win the league's west division.
 
   Huskies coach Rod Carey says his team needs to stay focused.
 
   "I know we control how we prepare for this game," he said. "If you don't attack it that way, like I've said before, this ball is oblong, so it bounces funny. You've got to control that."
 
   Toledo has steamrolled through much of the conference competition over the last four seasons, except for one team. The Rockets are 25-5 over the last four seasons in the MAC, with three of the losses coming against Northern Illinois.
 
   The Huskies and the Rockets have the best running offenses in the MAC, but feature different styles.
 
   Huskies' quarterback Jordan Lynch has rushed for 1,273 yards and 14 touchdowns this season to go along with his 2,216 yards and 21 touchdowns in the air.
 
   Toledo has relied a pair of freshman in the backfield the past four games since losing senior David Fluellen to injuries in back-to-back weeks. It's not clear whether Fluellen, who has 1,067 yards rushing this season and averages 7 yards per carry, will play against the Huskies.
 
   If he can't go, Kareem Hunt will get the bulk of the carries. He's run for over 100 yards the last four games, including 186 against Buffalo last week.  
 
   "He's had a couple of career days too, so he's no slouch himself," Carey said.
 
   Here are five things to know about the game:
 
   STILL ALIVE: All the Huskies need to do is win Wednesday to guarantee a fourth consecutive trip to the MAC championship game. Toledo needs to win against Northern Illinois, beat Akron next week and have the Huskies defeat Western Michigan in their final game. That would create a three-way tie in the MAC West and give the Rockets a spot in the title game.
 
   UP FRONT: Toledo's offensive line has been dominant in both run and pass blocking. Anchored by three-year starting center Zac Kerin, Toledo has given up just four sacks this season, best in the nation. The Huskies offensive line has only allowed six sacks.
 
   LYNCH'S RECORDS: Huskies QB Jordan Lynch has broken 15 school records in his career, but his most impressive statistic is his record as a starter -- 22-2. He needs 53 more rushing yards to rank third on the school's all-time rushing behind Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner, both of whom went on to the NFL.
 
   YOUNG ROCKETS: Toledo has 13 freshman listed in its two-deep roster and has been forced to lean on several of its young guys. Freshman nose tackle Treyvon Hester (6-3, 290) anchors the young defensive line. The Rockets have just three seniors starting on defense.
 
   PERFECT START: Northern Illinois would get off to the best start in its history with a victory over Toledo. The Huskies' 1963 NCAA College Division champions finished that season at 10-0. The last conference loss came on Oct. 1, 2011, against Central Michigan

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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