Repeat performance coming for NIU?
A bunch of crazy things had to happen in the final two weeks of the 2012 college football season for Northern Illinois to become the first Mid-American Conference team to crash the BCS party and play in the Orange Bowl.
All those things happened. Northern Illinois did.
A repeat showing this season is suddenly looking a little less crazy. The Huskies are 7-0, ranked No. 22 and No. 18 in the initial BCS standings. The BCS rule that got them in last year -- a BCS top-16 team from a non-automatic qualifying conference gets in if it finishes ahead of a champion from a qualifying conference -- could be applied again, especially after previously unbeaten and top-10 team Louisville lost last week. Or, maybe, the Huskies will just keep winning and teams in front of them will keep losing.
That's a heck of a carrot for new Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey to dangle in front of his team, but he won't do it. In fact, any discussion of going unbeaten or going back to the BCS is barred from the Northern Illinois football building.
"I don't want to talk about it," Carey said. "All I want to talk about is Eastern Michigan."
This week's opponent, Eastern Michigan, has one win on the season. Northern Illinois still has two other presumed laughers, too, against UMass and Western Michigan, but also has tough games vs. Ball State and Toledo in addition to the MAC Championship Game if it wins the MAC West.
If anyone in the Northern Illinois locker room is plotting a path to 13-0 and looking past this weekend, Carey is out to put a stop to it.
"You can't think that way," Carey said. "As far as being undefeated, it's not a matter of staying anything. It's a matter of moving forward. I don't pay attention to those rankings but obviously you can't get away from them."
These Huskies have earned their ranking and the spotlight that comes with it. Carey has said since taking over between last year's MAC Championship Game and the Orange Bowl that he wants his players to enjoy what they've earned and for the school and the program to benefit from this run, but he wants them to also understand that all the attention can be gone with just one slip.
"I don't know what those (rankings) mean," he said. "I know what they mean right after the season. You're going to be ranked there for your bowl and that could mean what type of bowl you get into. Right now, it doesn't mean anything other than we're 18, which is great. We've all see the BCS play out.
"Here is the big picture: I don't pay any attention to any of that stuff at anytime except in the offseason. So you go back and you look at it and you hear the experts talk about the BCS. You can still get in the BCS with an early loss, you can't get into the BCS with a late loss. The rankings, right now, I don't know what they mean other than we better go one game at a time. Before we were ranked number 18, we had better gone one game at a time. So it doesn't change us a whole lot, but it's nice."
The scoreboard watching is either for later or everyone else -- or maybe both. Toledo and Ball State have very good, very experienced teams. Fresno State is another potential BCS crasher from a non-qualifying conference and actually ranks a spot ahead of Northern Illinois, at No. 17, right now. He'll tell his players only to try to keep winning -- 316 rushing yards from Jordan Lynch, an FBS record for a quarterback, last week helped that cause -- and then see how the standings shake out.
"With Twitter and Facebook out there all the time, they're getting hit with (BCS talk) -- no doubt," Carey said. "I think the thing about this team to this point right now is that when they walk in this building, the cell phone turns off and they do it on their own. They lock in and see what they need to do and they try their darndest to execute it each and every day at practice.
"This isn't basketball when you know when the ball is coming back up to you. That thing is oblong, man. No one has higher expectations than us, and we'll just see where it is in the end. Now is not the time to worry about it."