Over the weekend I exchanged a little banter with some majorer-college football bloggers, because we had a slight disagreement on the following statement:
Northern Illinois is the No. 25 county in the nation.
Indeed, take any computer ranking in the country, and they're at best putting them in the 30-40 range, but usually farther back in the 60-70 echelon out of 120. So, the best MAC team is in the lower half. Some computer polls have Toledo further ahead, mostly because of strength-of-schedule, also known as strength-to-get-creamed-by-two-top-20-schools. But for the most part, algorithms like NIU as the team with the must spunk 'n hustle, but not enough to have them even sniff the Top 15.
Okay, let's look at the reasons they ain't close to #25, and then counterargue:
The 27-10 loss to Iowa State. Yeah, that looks pretty bad, especially with a three-possession loss to a team that got blanked by Oklahoma and blasted by Utah. ISU did hold tough against 5-2 Kansas State but the main thing to take away from this game is that DeMarcus Grady was your starter. Chandler Harnish wasn't available, and had he been healthy, you have to believe the score looks a lot better. Maybe even a victory. But the team that lost to ISU is not the same team today.
The Illinois loss. That one was 28-22, a nail-biter that didn't fall the Huskies way. But look at Illinois: they're 3-3 and their three losses are to Missouri, Ohio State, and Michigan State — a combined 21-1 record. They were not destroyed by either Mizzou or OSU, and the Illini did tear up Penn State.
Minnesota isn't a marquee win. They beat the Gophers in Minnesota by 11, as did ranked USC and winning-record Purdue. Minny fell to Northwestern by a single point, and at home Wisconsin only bested them by 18 points. Uh, yeah, they're 1-6 (and counting) but NOBODY has blown this team out by more than that.
And finally ... they're playing MAC teams. And as we all know, bad MAC teams are filled with paraplegic wheelchair-bound lepers who need to be informed by seeing-eye dogs where the end zone is, and what happens when you get there. (Spoiler: ICE CREAM!!1)
Add together the wins over Akron, Temple and Buffalo, and you have yourself a 126-45 combined margin of victory, or an average win of 42-15. Big beautiful blowouts. Boise State has beaten up, among other lower-half teams, a ranked team at home and somebody that James Madison also beat (and by more points).
This isn't a case for them eventually becoming ranked (although they could very well blast through those last five games unscathed). This is a case for right now. Who else are you going to put at No. 25?
Miami of Florida is the consensus No. 25, based on all the polls ran by football hominids. Could they beat Miami on a neutral field? They're certainly not playing very well lately, at least in the last two games. It took them seven Duke turnovers to create 28 points. My guess is that the Hurricanes probably beat NIU 7 times out of 10, and all 10 are close games. It's not an air-tight argument, but few are.
NIU is at 3-0 in the MAC, along with Toledo and [eyebrow raise] Miami. This is a strange year indeed for early risers, but while their nonconference record is rather tarnished, these are teams that get five, maybe six games a year at home to establish themselves. You're comparing this kind of schedule against teams like Michigan State and Ohio State, both which enjoyed zero nonconference road trips. Give 'em some credit. No. 25 isn't asking much.