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Northern Illinois Wraps Up Everything Rather Nicely

Not to be a braggart but I did see a 4-1 season coming, did I not? Never mind that I went 3-2 in the MAC bowl pick'em pool — and this is why you always go with your gut, not with your brain. Using your brain to pick sports only hurts you. And yet we want athletes to make smart plays in football. Hmm.

But as mentioned, this caps off the MAC's best bowl season to date. NIU rightly thrashed Sun Belt champs Arkansas State 38-20 in last night's Bowl, which had to start at 9 p.m. ET for some reason. And maybe it was the late time slot or the overexposure of the rematch but the announcers surprisingly didn't saturate the telecast with LSU-Alabama talk. I mean, sure, the subject was broached. It's unavoidable. But this worked out well, especially since the game was actually rather decent through three quarters.

If you need a spot of game analysis, then I'll just chalk it up to ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin making a few off-base throws that the Huskies were able to snag and return. Rashaan Melvin had the prettiest one of them all, picking off a bad screen pass, but Dechane Durante jumped the route in the fourth quarter on a sensational move, and his pick-six essentially made the game "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."

And the storybook season ends for NIU. They got their MAC Championship and their bowl victory. Chandler Harnish goes out a winner, or something like that. It certainly wasn't a type of performance that we've come to enjoy from Harnish (18-for-36, 274 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, three rushing yards on nine carries) and his exit in the first half due to an ankle injury really put the game in question anyways. Fortunately his defense was able to capitalize on bad ASU passes and gentlemen mostly named Martel Moore was able to haul in amazing catches.

And maybe it was an indirect blessing to see Jordan Lynch have to man the offense arriving cold from the bench. He was 4-for-4, including a long ol' 41-yarder to Moore. At least this year Lynch has been the backup QB/single winger. And all things considered ASU really plugged up the running game, especially the QB draws. So the jury may be out on how well Lynch will do next year as the starting QB (if he will be the starter) but I liked what I saw so far, in the minuscule sample sizes we've had so far.

And I hate that this has to be the discussion every time, but with a gaggle of 35 bowls you're going to have some nationally unwatchable ones. Doing the third grade math, one-seventh of the games were MAC bowls, three of those were close, and two were classics. The competition wasn't wholly stiff for them (two Mountain West teams, a Sun Belt champ, a WAC team, and a Big Ten middler) but they did match up well with everybody and got four wins out of it. In a playoff system, you'd probably have NIU play Oklahoma State and lose by 30. It's admittedly closer to the truth of what a football season should be, but with the talent/competition gap sickeningly chasmic, bowl orgy is essentially the best option, unless they want to do a mid-major tournament.

Because, remember, when they discuss "leaving out" teams in the BCS, the teams they refer to are other huge-budget programs who suffered one or two losses. Not everyone is supposed to be a national championship contender. The world needs a conference who plays exciting football, thanks in part to close proximity, a narrow talent gap and sometimes a joyful lack of defense. People liked it and called it #MACtion. We usually just call it "MAC football." And it'll be here next season too.