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MAC notebook: NIU shines in historic win over Iowa

The SportsXchange

The Mid-American Conference doesn't look as strong as past years, if the first week is any indicator. Northern Illinois defeated Iowa for the first time in school history, serving as the shining moment for the conference.

Bowling Green's defense looks solid again, perhaps becoming the best defense in the conference. BGSU's win over Tulsa was impressive in many fashions, with all three phases playing solid.

Kent State struggled in its opener, barely beating Liberty due to a fourth-quarter comeback. Injuries became a factor for several MAC teams, with KSU's Dri Archer limited to just a few plays after suffering an ankle injury in the first series. He's expected back for next week's key contest with Bowling Green. Central Michigan suffered big losses with 1,000-yard rusher Zurlon Tipton suffering a broken ankle, and starting quarterback Cody Kater breaking his collarbone.

The Broncos looked solid in their season opening loss at Michigan State, riding emotion and energy in head coach P.J. Fleck's debut. Buffalo's 20-point loss to No. 2 Ohio State might serve notice to the rest of the conference, with the Bulls holding OSU to 17 points in the final three quarters.

The big games for next week include Bowling Green at Kent State in a key early-season battle for East Division power. Two-time defending champion Northern Illinois takes a week off after beating Iowa for the first time in nine tries. Toledo heads to SEC Missouri. The Rockets get a second chance to defeat an SEC team after Saturday's loss at Florida.


1. Northern Illinois is not ready to take a step back. After winning a school-record 12 games and landing a BCS bowl bid last season, the Huskies -- and quarterback Jordan Lynch -- were expected to return to earth after losing some key receivers and some players on the defensive line. But the Huskies answered all those questions with a strong fourth-quarter comeback win at Iowa.

2. Lynch is still one of the best players in the country. The NIU senior quarterback did look mortal against the Hawkeyes with 56 yards rushing on 22 carries. But Lynch passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns. His numbers didn't compare to some of last season's eye-poppers, but he ran the offense with efficiency and spearheaded the game-winning drive.

3. Kent State looked bad in its opener. Sure, Dri Archer sat out nearly the entire game due to an ankle injury. But Kent State has to play better if it wants to compete in the East Division, especially with a key battle against a strong Bowling Green team coming up this weekend.

4. Central Michigan looks to be in trouble. The Chippewas were an unknown of sorts entering the season. They showed some late-season promise in 2012, brought back some key players on offense, but lacked a starting quarterback. Tailback Zurlon Tipton's injury puts an even bigger emphasis on the quarterback spot, with Alex Niznak slated to take over after a broken collarbone injury to starter Cody Kater.

5. Western Michigan is a team to watch. Despite losing starting quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen to an injury, the Broncos battled the Spartans to a 13-point loss. The Broncos got a solid effort from freshman quarterback Zach Terrell in a tough environment.
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