● MAC tourney could be a wild one
● Ball State Cardinals – an amazing turnaround
● MAC football will make history in Chicago
● Dieter latest Falcon gridder to depart
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Of course, that was in DeKalb, and Akron remains undefeated at home. Will that kind of “home cooking” success translate to Quicken Loans Arena, which is practically in the Zips back yard.
Looking beyond the Zips, there is considerable parity. Even the struggling have had their moments. Northern Illinois dropped five straight conference games at one point, but the Huskies one game behind MAC West leader Ball State.
Speaking of which, coach James Whitford deserves tremendous kudos for what his Cardinals have already accomplished. Ball State was struggling mightily when Whitford took over. Things still looked pretty grim last season as BSU finished the campaign with a 17-game losing streak.
But the Cardinals also had talent on a young roster and Whitford has added to that talent again for this season. Having seen the Cardinals several times, I notice they seem to be growing in confidence.
Can they take that confidence into the MAC tourney? We shall see, but they might need it. The Cardinals really don’t have MAC tourney experience upon which to draw
Northern Illinois has played three football games in Chicago during the last decade – all at Soldier Field. Two were against Iowa (2007 and 2012). One was against Wisconsin (2011).
U.S. Cellular Field has hosted thousands of baseball games. It is home for the Chicago White Sox and opened in 1991 to replace 81-year-old Comiskey Park. To date, it has never hosted a football game.
Huskies head coach Rod Carey pointed the obvious, which is that Northern Illinois has a large fan base in the Chicago area. NIU should have its quarterback (injury) situation resolved, which means the Huskies should be contending for the MAC West crown yet again in 2016.
“We are really excited to play the first ever football game at US Cellular Field,” Carey said. “It is going to be a fun atmosphere with a midweek night game on TV against a fine opponent in Toledo.”
Toledo has also been a perennial contender, so this game figures to be important to both programs in terms of the title race. It might not hurt, either, that the game will be nationally televised. What program doesn’t like TV face time, right?
“Our rivalry with Northern Illinois has been a terrific one and we are honored to be part of this historic event at U.S. Cellular Field,” Vice-President/Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “These games are good for the Mid-American Conference, and I expect our fans will definitely want to come to Chicago for what should be a great game.”
Single game tickets for what they are calling the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown will be priced at $45, $55 and $65. Northern Illinois season ticket holders will be afforded tickets as part of their package.
Now comes word that receiver Gehrig Dieter is headed to Alabama for a “graduation” season. Dieter is a big target (6-3, 207) who displayed considerable athleticism (not to mention some highlight reel catches) in a productive 2015 season. He totaled 94 catches for 1,033 yards and 10 TDs.
Of course, filling the holes falls on new head coach Mike Jinks, who took over the program following the departure of Dino Babers to Syracuse.