Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss tonight's huge NIU-Ball St. game.
Ross Jacobson: #MACtion officially starts in DeKalb tonight as Northern Illinois hosts Ball State in one of the most anticipated Mid-American Conference matchups in recent memory.
The implications of this game are huge for both teams. Another victory for NIU would likely give the Huskies a much-needed boost in the polls and also keeps their hopes for a repeat BCS bowl game alive. On the other hand, a Ball State win means the Cardinals clinch the MAC West championship for the first time since 2008.
It may seen harsh, but if NIU loses against Ball State, is the 2013 season considered a disappointment?
Steve Nitz: I look at it this way. Even with a loss to the Cardinals, the Huskies could finish the season 12-1, win a bowl game and finish in the top 25. I’m sorry, but a season that successful should not be considered a disappointment. I know a loss tonight may be tough to take with all the BCS talk, but there can’t be too much disappointment by losing to a very good Ball State team.
Jacobson: I think it would be a disappointment. The Huskies were unquestionably the favorites to win the MAC Championship this year and complete a three-peat, something only done by Marshall since the conference title game was adopted in 1997.
The wins over Iowa and Purdue are great. Well, in the case of Purdue now, it was just OK. Rod Carey will say the Eastern Illinois win was very good. But teams are ultimately judged by what you do in conference and if the Huskies don’t win it with this team then it has to be a disappointment.
Nitz: You can’t win the conference every year, and I think the MAC has established itself as one of the better non-AQ leagues in the nation. Just because the Huskies lose one conference game does not make the season a failure.
I will also say that while I picked NIU to win the MAC West, I didn’t necessarily think the Huskies were a hands-down favorite. I figured both Ball State and Toledo would be tough obstacles.
Now, back to the game at hand. There’s been a lot of hype for this one, just look at what we’re discussing. Is this the most important game in Huskie Stadium history?
Jacobson: The only other game that really could be in contention is the 2003 game when NIU hosted Western Michigan after starting 6-0 and was ranked No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.
But Ball State is a much better opponent than the 2003 Western Michigan team was (Broncos were 3-3, 2-1 MAC at the time) and the conference and BCS implications noted above are huge for both programs.
Nitz: It’s hard to argue with you. However, the Toledo game last year was certainly big, NIU doesn’t go to the BCS without that victory. You can’t underestimate the 2003 Maryland game either.
However, with what’s on the line, I’d say this is the biggest game in Huskie Stadium history. If only Ball State had beaten North Texas and was unbeaten as well.