On Wednesday night, one game will decide two teams’ fate.
Toledo (8-2, 5-1 MAC) and NIU (9-1, 6-0 MAC) together have totaled 17 wins, which is more than the rest of the teams in the MAC West combined.
The game not only serves as the next step in the Huskies pursuit of repeating as MAC Champions, but it also means a lot to the senior class.
“For us, that’s the most important part of the week, is the most winningest class in NIU football history gets to go out on the field at night on national television and play,” said coach Dave Doeren in a news conference. “We’ll do everything we can as a coaching staff and as a football team to send them out the right way.”
In the history of the two squads meeting, Toledo holds the edge historically by a large margin, 29-10. However, in recent years, NIU has found a way to flip the script, as it has won the last two contests, including last year’s 63-60 barn burner that put the Huskies on their way to the MAC championship.
“We know it’s a big football game, we know now it’s become a huge rivalry football game,“ said Toledo coach Matt Campbell in a news conference. “What they’ve done to us the last two years, they’ve won two big football games because, honestly, they out physical’d us and they beat us. Our kids know that we’ve got great respect for their program, what they do. We’ve got great faith in what we do and where we’re at right now. We look forward to the challenge.”
Both teams feature high-powered offenses, just as they did a year ago, which resulted in 123 combined points. The squads have improved defenses this year, as well.
Toledo features a running back with more than 1,000 yards on the season in senior David Fluellen, who is fresh off a 200-yard game against Bowling Green. On the other side, junior quarterback Jordan Lynch is leading the nation in total offense between his passing and rushing prowess.
The similarities between the two teams will be noticeable, with both teams running up-tempo offenses and capable of putting points on the board in a hurry.
The key difference come game night is one team will have its birth to a championship game, and one will begin looking toward next season.
Doeren believes that despite the rivalry and history building between the two universities, this game will only serve one purpose.
“For me, I just want to get there,” Doeren said in a news conference. “I want to beat Toledo because it is a team that stands in our way. I don’t look at them as a team that I have bad blood or ill will towards. We had a great game against them last year. We recruit against each other. We are going to play hard against each other.
“They’re the team that is in our way and we got to do everything we can to come out with a W.”