For the first time in program history, Northern Illinois doesn't have to look beyond the top 25 at the end of the season to see where it stands among college football's top programs.
Coming off a 12-2 season that finished with a 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, NIU finished the season ranked No. 22 in the final Associated Press poll, and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
The Huskies were previously ranked No. 16 in both polls, but fell six spots after their loss to the Seminoles.
Alabama, which dominated Notre Dame, 42-14, in the BCS National Championship Game, finished as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation with 59 first-place votes from the AP and 56 from the coaches, who are required to vote the BCS title game winner No. 1.
Utah State (16th AP/17th Coaches), Boise State (18th/14th), San Jose State (21st/21st) and Tulsa (25th in Coaches poll) were the only other non-automatic qualifying teams to finish the season ranked in the top 25.
No other Mid-American Conference schools received votes in the final AP poll, while Kent State got five votes in the Coaches poll.
Last season, the Huskies finished the season ranked No. 28 in the AP poll and 26th in the Coaches poll after a win in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
With 12 of 22 starters returning next season, including quarterback Jordan Lynch, who finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting, it is not out of the question that NIU could be ranked in the preseason top 25 to start next year. More than likely, NIU will be receiving votes and need a couple of marquee non-conference wins over Iowa and Purdue to break into the polls at the start of next season.
Both polls can be found here.