Created:Tuesday, October 13, 2009 1:32 a.m.CDT



Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt's injured throwing shoulder should be fine for Saturday's 6 p.m. game against Northern Illinois, Toledo coach Tim Beckman said during Monday's Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference.

Opelt left during the second quarter of the Rockets' eventual 58-26 home loss to Western Michigan this past Saturday after reportedly being injured in the first quarter.

"We had the shoulder MRI'd. It was completely clean," Beckman said. "There was no break or tear of the labrum. It's a bruise and we expect him to be back full and ready on Saturday."

True freshman Austin Dantin entered in relief of Opelt and was 17 of 28 for 160 yards and three touchdowns, though his first touchdown came with the Rockets already trailing 41-6.

Beckman added that although Opelt, a senior, should be ready to go, he won't rule out playing both quarterbacks as the season progresses.

"Aaron is our quarterback but Austin will be involved in the games as we continue this season because he does need to learn how to be a college football player, how to be a college quarterback," Beckman said.

NIU coach Jerry Kill said no matter which quarterback plays for the Rockets, it shouldn't have too much of an effect on the MAC's highest-scoring offense. But seeing a few quarters of film on Dantin wasn't a bad thing.

"I think it helps you a little bit," Kill said. "But at the same time they're going to do what they do. They have a very unique system, one they do very well offensively, very similar to what Oklahoma State does. I think no matter who is standing back there, they're going to be productive in what they do.

"I don't think you stop them. I think you've just got to slow them down a little bit."

Big week in the West: Take a look around the MAC schedule this weekend and one thing is obvious, this is a big week for the MAC West.

NIU (3-2, 1-0 MAC West) travels to Toledo (3-3, 1-1) and Central Michigan (5-1, 3-0) plays at Western Michigan (3-3, 2-1).

Toledo and Western Michigan both have a divisional loss and another loss in the division this weekend for those teams means they would need some serious help to get back in the race. Should both of the home teams win, though, the MAC West officially becomes up for grabs.

Coaches downplayed the notion of this week being more important than any other conference game.

"Because of the balance in the conference, it reminds me, in all honesty, of the SEC. Where to go through the conference and be undefeated would be a heck of a feat," Beckman said. "So every game is important. This next game is huge because we do have one defeat."

"I think every week's a big week," Kill said. "I just don't know, in college football, that there are no big weeks. You never know what's going to happen. I think our conference is so well balanced, you have to be ready to play every single week. ... I think you better take them one game at a time.

"Is this a big week? You bet it is. But it's a big week every week in our conference."

What a turnaround: Western Michigan looked like a team in serious trouble after its 38-3 loss at NIU two weeks ago. But the Broncos went to Toledo this past Saturday and throttled the Rockets, 58-26.

Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said it was "put up or shut up" time for his team this past week.

"I think we were all embarrassed," Cubit said. "We went out there, and I'm not taking anything away from Northern Illinois because they're a really good football team, but the way we played out there was not acceptable."

Quotable: "We ended up playing a really good Central Michigan team and really had opportunities early in the game to get off the field on third down and we could not do that. Then that thing just kind of snowballed on us." Eastern Michigan coach Ron English on his team's 56-8 loss to Central Michigan, ending what had been a competitive string of games for the Eagles against the Chippewas with EMU winning four of the previous five against CMU.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?