1. THE LYNCH-PIN: Of course, all talk about Northern Illinois starts with Lynch. He was the one leading the charge as the Huskies grabbed the spotlight, becoming the first player in FBS history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,500 in a season.
Now, he's being pushed as a Heisman Trophy candidate heading into his senior season, his second as a starter. He set FBS records for a quarterback with 1,815 yards rushing and 12 100-yard rushing games, while throwing for 3,138 yards. He also had 25 passing and 19 rushing touchdowns. That doesn't stop teammates from having fun at his expense.
"If we're in a restaurant or something, (we'll say), 'Oh, wow, is that Jordan Lynch, the Heisman Trophy candidate,'" offensive lineman Matt Krempel said. "Kind of point him out in a crowd."
2. THE NEW COACH: This time last year, Carey was the offensive line coach. Now, he's in charge from the start, after a quick climb last season. He moved up to offensive coordinator after the first game last season when Mike Dunbar left the team for health reasons and then became the head coach on the same day NIU accepted the Orange Bowl invitation, with Dave Doeren leaving for North Carolina State.
3. BUILDING OFF THE BCS: With five straight bowl seasons, the Huskies are no strangers to success. Now, they can also boast a BCS appearance. Carey acknowledged the Orange Bowl run opened some recruiting doors, but it also left NIU in a balancing act.
"It got us into a lot more conversations," he said. "You have to be careful because it's like going to the dance with a girl. And if all of a sudden you end up dancing with another girl too long, the date you brought to the dance isn't going to be there at the end of the night, right? You have to be careful about those conversations, but it certainly got us into more."