The Marshall Thundering Herd were the college football darlings for much of the 2014 season. The Herd ripped off 11 straight wins to open the year and looked bound for an undefeated record and a berth in one of the New Year's 6 bowls.
However, things came crashing down in their regular-season finale against Western Kentucky, as they dropped a 67-66 overtime loss at home to the Hilltoppers. That knocked Marshall out of the top 25 and effectively eliminated them from contention for one of the premier bowls.
They went on to beat Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA title game, and they'll now face the MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies. NIU hammered Bowling Green in the MAC championship to finish 11-2 and barely out of the top 25. With both of these teams entering this game with 11 and 12 wins respectively, there's an outside chance the winner of this game will finish in the final top-25 poll, which would be quite an accomplishment for either of these non-power schools.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Date and time: Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, 6 p.m. ET
Location: Boca Raton, Fla.
Stadium: FAU Stadium, 30,000
Online streaming: WatchESPN.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked. NIU is 11-2 and 7-1 in the MAC. Marshall is 12-1 and 7-1 in CUSA.
Weather forecast: 80 degrees, partly cloudy.
Two things at stake
A win for Marshall gets them to 13 wins, a quality achievement for any school in any conference or division of football.
The same goes for NIU, though a win gets them to 12 wins.
One big matchup
Drew Hare vs. Marshall Defense
The Huskies keep rolling in the MAC, appearing in their fifth consecutive conference title game even after losing Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch last season. That's because sophomore quarterback Drew Hare has filled in nicely, throwing for 2,097 yards and 17 scores to go with 850 rushing yards and eight more scores.