Northern Illinois didn't exactly dominate its conference schedule like BCS busters of yore, but it won every game and defeated Ball State, who many saw as their biggest obstacle to a perfect season. What could go wrong?
A lot, it turns out, as the Huskies fell to a very game Bowling Green team in Friday's MAC Championship, as Northern Illinois's defense gave up multiple big plays in the passing game en route to a 47-27 loss.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson put on a show for the Falcons, throwing four touchdowns in the first half to take a 31-13 lead at the break. Three of those scores were on plays of more than 20 yards, as Bowling Green repeatedly targeted a Northern Illinois secondary that had not really been exploited prior to this game.
More notable than the success of Johnson was the lack of success for Jordan Lynch, who likely saw his Heisman candidacy end at Ford Field. The fifth-year senior completed 21 of 40 passes for 219 yards, with one touchdown against two interceptions, and ran 26 times for 126 yards and two scores.
Lynch seemed to pull the Huskies right back in it with his eight-yard third quarter touchdown run, making it 31-20. Tyler Tate's 52-yard field goal (one of two 50+ yard field goals in the game) increased BGSU's two-score lead, and Northern Illinois had the ball with 14 minutes left, down two scores but still very much in it.
Then, Lynch threw his second interception of the game, and the Huskies' BCS hopes crumbled in that instant. Johnson and the Falcons marched down the field, and the unsung hero threw his fifth touchdown of the game, pushing the lead to 20 points with about 10 minutes to play.
With the win, Bowling Green robs their conference from an additional $8 million in revenue, but from the way they played, it doesn't look like that was even remotely on their minds.
Box Score Hero: Matt Johnson. The diminutive quarterback completed 21 of 27 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns, outclassing his top-tier opponent in the process.
Rankings Ramifications: Northern Illinois came into the game ranked No. 14, while Bowling Green was unranked. The Huskies may drop right out of the rankings, as their position was reliant on their undefeated record and not the strength of their wins (either in opponent or margin). It is unlikely Bowling Green will end up ranked.
But Did They Cover? Northern Illinois was a three-point favorite, so no.
Next Week's Schedule: Both teams will be bowling, with destinations as of yet unknown.