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DETROIT – Northern Illinois has two scores to settle in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
The Huskies are facing Bowling Green for the second straight season on Friday night. A year ago, Northern Illinois came into Ford Field with a 12-0 record and hoping for a second-straight BCS berth, only to be blown out 47-27 by the Falcons.
"There are a lot of kids on our team who played in that game a year ago, and there are still a few around from when we played them in 2011, so we know how good Bowling Green is," Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said. "We haven't forgotten any of that."
By itself, that would be plenty of incentive for the Huskies. They have more.
On Sept. 21, 2013, they hosted in-state rival Eastern Illinois in a game they were favored.
Yes, the Panthers were a highly ranked FCS team, but that wouldn't normally put much fear into a team coming off a BCS berth.
But Northern Illinois struggled for 60 minutes before finally pulling out a 42-39 victory in a duel between Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo.
After the season, Panthers coach Dino Babers got the Bowling Green job. He replaceed Dave Clawson, who left to coach Clemson job.
Babers, though, downplays any carry over from last season's coaching matchup.
"That was an exciting game, but I don't think it is going to have any effect on what happens this year," he said. "For one thing, in that game, they had a quarterback who was a Heisman Trophy candidate and we had a quarterback that ended up being a second-round draft pick. They don't get to use their guy on Friday, and I don't get to use Jimmy. These are two different teams."
Some things you need to know about Friday's game at Ford Field:
POSSIBLE MISMATCH? The West champion Huskies are big favorites this season, coming into the game with a 10-2 record that includes a win at Northwestern and a 7-1 mark in the MAC. Bowling Green, on the other hand, only went 5-3 in conference play, including three losses to Western teams — Toledo, Western Michigan and Ball State. The losses to Toledo and Ball State came in their final two games of the season, so Babers knows his team is lucky to be at Ford Field.
"This is a blessing for us, because we're going to get a chance to right some wrongs," he said. "We really don't like the way we ended the season, but now we get one more chance to prove that we're a good football team."
NO SECOND TRIP TO DETROIT: Traditionally, one of the teams from the conference-championship game found themselves back in Detroit for Christmas to play in what was the Motor City Bowl and later became the Little Caesars Bowl. That isn't likely to happen in the future, as the stadium's new postseason game, the Quick Lane Bowl, will match teams from the ACC and Big Ten. The MAC does have a backup deal with the new bowl, though, if one of the participating conferences doesn't have enough eligible teams.
FIVE IN A ROW: Northern Illinois is making its fifth straight appearance in the championship game, one short of the record set by Marshall from 1997-2002. The Thundering Herd, led by Randy Moss and Chad Pennington, then by Byron Leftwich, won five of those six games, while the Huskies are going for a third title.
STAYING IN DETROIT: MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher announced Thursday that the conference and Ford Field had reached a deal that will keep the game in Detroit through at least 2019. The MAC played their title games on campus sites from 1997-2003 before moving to Ford Field in 2004.
NOT QUITE THE SAME: Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare led the Huskies in rushing with 790 yards — the most by any MAC quarterback — but he's still a long way from matching Lynch's record-setting season from a year ago. Lynch finished with 1,920 yards rushing, and added 2,892 passing yards and 47 combined touchdowns while finishing third in the Heisman voting.