The MAC experienced a great shift in power during the 2016 season.
The Northern Illinois Huskies have dominated in the conference over the course of the decade, but will not qualify for a bowl game in 2016. Northern Illinois has not been excluded from the postseason since 2007, constructing eight-consecutive winning seasons and earning six-straight MAC West titles.
Several 5-7 teams attained bowl eligibility this season, due to the insufficient number of six-win teams. Academic Progress Rating (APR) is factored in to rank the precedence of 5-7 teams.
The Huskies own an APR of 970 and required a loss by either Louisiana-Lafayette or South Alabama on Saturday to qualify for a bowl. Both Sun Belt teams cruised to victory, leaving the Huskies as the first team out — considering Texas (APR of 971) planned on declining a bowl bid, reported by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
The Huskies won four of five games to conclude the season, finishing with a 5-3 record in the conference. But the 0-4 start created a hole Rod Carey’s team was unable to escape.
Northern Illinois scheduled three of the best Group of Five teams in 2016: South Florida (10-2) and the two participants of the Mountain West Championship Game in Wyoming and San Diego State. The Huskies’ fourth non-conference loss occurred at home against Western Illinois, an FCS team.
The injury bug consistently bit the red and black all season long. The Huskies started four different quarterbacks in the season and lost several defenders as the year dwindled down to a close. Despite the adversity, Northern Illinois nearly finished the year with a five-game win streak, blowing a fourth quarter lead to Toledo on November 9 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Although Northern Illinois enjoyed a long strand of bowl games, the Huskies often struggled during the contests. Since Rod Carey took over as head coach for the 2013 Orange Bowl (after the 2012 season), his program is 0-4 in bowls.
Last season, Boise State obliterated Northern Illinois 55-7 in the Poinsettia Bowl, outgaining NIU by over 600 yards in the blowout. The Huskies’ last bowl win occurred after the 2011 season, defeating Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Going forward, the Huskies lose a key set of pieces in 2017. Quarterback Anthony Maddie, running back Joel Bouagnon, and wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Aregeros Turner are all fixing to graduate. Former All-American Shawun Lurry has yet to decide whether to forego his senior season to test the waters in the NFL Draft.