When the Northern Illinois Huskies take the field against Florida State on New Years' Day, they will become the first MAC team to play in a BCS bowl game. They will also be the only 2012 BCS bowl team to lose their first game of the season. After a narrow one-point loss to Iowa at Solider FIeld to open the season, NIU's dreams appeared dashed. Then they lost their offensive coordinator.
Mike Dunbar, who was serving his first season as NIU's offensive coordinator, left the team to receive cancer treatments. Offensive line coach Rod Carey stepped in and the team didn't miss a beat. Non-conference wins over Army and Kansas set the Huskies up for a run. If they could win out in MAC play, there was an outside chance they could reach a big dance.
After winning out in regular-season MAC play, the Huskies met Kent State in the conference championship. The roller coaster continued as the Huskies battled the Golden Flashes to double-overtime, finally emerging 44-37.
When the dust settles on Tuesday, the Huskies will have done something that no team at their level has done. Hopefully, for Husky faithful, that means winning a major bowl game.