Week 4 of the 2012 college football season was a big, big week for the Mid-American Conference.
Not only did Northern Illinois defeat Kansas, three other MAC schools got victories over BCS teams. Central Michigan, who heads to DeKalb this week, got a close, crazy win at Iowa, while Western Michigan defeated Connecticut and Ball State earned a win over South Florida.
"I just think there's a lot of good recruiting and coaching going on right now in the MAC conference," NIU head coach Dave Doeren said during Monday's league teleconference. "There' s a lot of coaches that have been able to stay where they're at for three or four years and develop their players. You're seeing the benefit of that now."
Conference play heating up: With its four non-conference games out of the way, NIU is all-MAC from here on out, starting with Central Michigan this week. The Chippewas handed the Huskies their only league loss last season. There's also a big game in Kalamazoo, Mich., with Western Michigan hosting Toledo.
Doeren likes how his team's schedule has played out his first two seasons in DeKalb, being able to get non-conference play out of the way before heading into the MAC slate.
"I like the separation myself. I think it gives your football team kind of a chance to refocus," Doeren said. "When you're playing well in the non-conference it's a little, maybe different than when you're not. I know last year, we came out of the non-conference 2-2 and all of the sudden felt like we were sitting 0-0 again and had a breath of fresh air and went on a run."
Chips coming in with a momentum: Not too long ago, Central Michigan was the class of the MAC, winning three conference championships from 2006-09 under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.
Dan Enos' first two seasons were a struggle, with the Chippewas going 3-9 in 2010 and 2011. So far this season, Central Michigan looks like it may have turned a corner. The Chips are currently 2-1, including that big win over Iowa.
"I think it's shown that we've made some improvements," Enos said. "I don't think, by any means,we're a finished product yet. We have a lot of work we still have to do."
– Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SNitz_DDC on Twitter