Despite improving to 2-0 on the season, the Huskies find themselves unranked and have no one to blame but themselves.
Well, technically, the voters are to blame for not voting the Huskies into The Associated Press Top 25, but the Huskies gave them good reason not to. So, yes, the team is to blame.
With the No. 20, 23 and 24 ranked teams each losing this weekend and the Huskies playing as heavy favorites against the Idaho Vandals (0-3), the stage was set for NIU to take its first plunge into the AP Top 25 this season.
The Huskies were 28.5-point favorites against the Vandals, and although games are not played on paper, I honestly expected the Huskies to march out of the Kibbie Dome with something like a 49-10 victory, dismantling the Vandals in the process. The Vandals had given up 82 points in their first two games while scoring a grand total of 16 points. Pitting Idaho’s weak defense against NIU’s potent offense should have been a recipe for disaster — for Idaho.
However, the Vandals came out ready to play, racing to a 21-7 lead just nine seconds into the second quarter. The Huskies put on a poor display on both sides of the ball for a better part of the first half, trailing 28-14 with 9:35 remaining in the first half. From there, things started to click and NIU used a 31-7 run just to escape with a semi-respectable 45-35 victory.
In his weekly news conference leading up to the Idaho game, head coach Rod Carey said, “We’ll get their best shot because it’s their first home game, and I expect them to come out on cloud nine.”
Well, Carey wasn’t wrong, but I was in a stunned silence with how impressive the Vandals looked early on; it appeared Idaho, not NIU, was the 28.5-point favorite.
The Huskies began to put things together by reaching the end zone, winning the turnover battle and piling up the sacks. After watching the Iowa game in the season opener, it was evident the Huskies don’t simply fold when the going gets tough, so I had a feeling they would be able to complete the comeback, which they did in a rather ugly game.
In a college football world where higher point totals are becoming the norm and teams need to post style points in order to impress to voters, the Huskies came out flat and had to surprisingly survive an early-season scare. As the old saying goes, “A win is a win,” and the Huskies now stand at 2-0 on the season but are still unranked.
In the preseason AP Top 25 poll, the Huskies were unofficially ranked No. 35 with 16 votes. After knocking off the Iowa Hawkeyes in the season opener, the Huskies moved up to the No. 30 slot with 27 votes. While off with a bye week, NIU stayed at No. 30 but garnered only 21 votes. The Huskies sit at 2-0 in the No. 29 slot with 24 votes and may soon find themselves ranked if they post large margins of victories highlighted by style points, something they have failed to do so far.
I am in no way saying a victory of 30-plus points would have absolutely guaranteed the Huskies a spot in the AP Top 25, but they would have at least made a case for themselves to be ranked.
The Huskies will have a chance to respond with a complete game on both sides of the ball when they host the Eastern Illinois Panthers (3-0) this weekend in their home opener. A convincing win coupled with losses from teams on the edge of the rankings and the Huskies may very well find themselves in the rankings for the first time next week.