East and West still toss-ups

By Sean Ostruszka

From the beginning, NIU football coach Joe Novak said anyone could win the MAC.

Looks like it’s going to come true.

Two games over the next two days will decide who wins the MAC West and East.

Tonight Bowling Green can wrap up the East with a win over Toledo and NIU can win it’s first outright MAC West title with a victory over Western Michigan.

But if either team loses, everything gets much more interesting.

The West

All that stands between the Huskies and a chance at their first MAC Championship is a win.

The Huskies have tied for first place in the West three of the past four years, but this is the first opportunity to take it all.

But Western Michigan isn’t going to just roll over, as it too has aspirations of a West title.

With a win over NIU Wednesday and a Toledo loss against BG, WMU would take home the title and head to Detroit for the championship.

As for Toledo, it has to take care of business over rival BG and hope for a NIU loss. If this happens, Toledo would head to Detroit to defend it’s MAC Championship. The trip to the championship would also be the Rocket’s fourth in five years.

The East

Like the West, everything can be wrapped up with one win.

But if Omar Jacobs and company at Bowling Green lose to Toledo, the door cracks open for two other teams.

Waiting in the wings for a BG slip up is Akron, who plays Kent State Thanksgiving day. If Akron wins and BG loses, the Zips would have the same record as the Falcons, but Akron would have a tie-breaker after a win over BG earlier in the season.

And still holding out hope for a share of the East title is Miami. It would need BG and Akron to lose just to tie for the division title.

If BG loses and both Akron and Miami win, then it would be a three-way tie with all three teams owning a conference record of 5-3. Each team has beaten the other team, leaving the tie to be broken by best record in crossover matchups. In that case the winner would be Akron if NIU beats WMU, and it’s BG if NIU loses.

What’s at stake for NIU

After an up and down season that saw both starting running backs and starting quarterback go down with an injury, the Huskies are right where they wanted to be.

NIU has never won the MAC West title or a MAC Championship game. The closest the Huskies came was in 1983 when they finished in first place, but there was no championship game.

Novak knows how important Wednesday’s game is and what it could mean to NIU. That’s why every practice leading up to it he has stressed to his team that this is the year.

After numerous years of just coming up short, NIU can finally achieve its goals. In a year when the MAC title was anybody’s to win, the Huskies are only two wins away.