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NIU believes it has best football team in state

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Who has the best college football team in Illinois?

Updated: December 28, 2012 6:25AM

Jordan Lynch is convinced his team could beat Illinois.

That hardly fans flames of outrage after the Illini ended a disastrous 2-10 season with a 50-14 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. But the Northern Illinois quarterback and dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate also believes the Huskies are better than the Wildcats.

“We consider ourselves the best team in the state,” Lynch said when asked if the Huskies would like to prove themselves against in-state foes from the Big Ten. “To be part of one of those rivalries, to schedule Northwestern or Illinois for a game every year, would be tremendous. But we consider ourselves the best team in the state.”

What might sound like bold talk from the usually soft-spoken Lynch has become a consensus opinion. In the BCS standings, NIU ranks 21st and Northwestern 22nd. In the Associated Press poll, NIU ranks 19th and Northwestern 22nd. In the USA Today coaches’ poll, NIU is 18th and Northwestern 20th.

“We’re starting to get more and more people writing about us in the papers,” said Lynch, who went to Mount Carmel, “and I have a lot of friends back home starting to talk and text me saying the word on the street is that Northern’s program is back and they’re talking about us being the best team in the state of Illinois. A lot of people are talking about us right now.”

There’s more at stake than a second consecutive Mid-American Conference championship, a 12th consecutive victory and a 17th consecutive conference victory when the Huskies (11-1) meet Kent State (11-1) on Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit. The winner could receive a BCS bowl berth.

Either NIU or Kent State can earn an at-large spot if it finishes in the top 16 of the BCS standings and a BCS conference champion finishes lower than 16.

Rutgers and Louisville will play for the Big East title Thursday, but neither is ranked in the BCS standings. That opens the door for the Golden Flashes, who are 17th, and the Huskies. But both will need style points to impress the voters and losses from the teams ranked around them.

Jeremy Guy, the MAC director of communications, tweeted Monday that Orange Bowl representatives will be at the MAC title game.

“It puts you on a national stage against another nationally known team in a big underdog role, obviously,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said of what a BCS bowl berth could do for his program. “It gives you a chance to potentially do what Boise [State] did a couple of years ago when they beat Oklahoma in their BCS game. I don’t know if we can pull off that same feat, but we would try.

“That’s what we want. If we could win this football game and be 12-1, we would be deserving and I know whoever we played against would get a very good football team. Imagine how many people would be talking about the Huskies then.”

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