60ºF

Conference champs Northern Illinois, UAB to meet in Boca Raton Bowl

Huskies played in inaugural game at FAU Stadium in 2014

Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Rod Carey celebrates with the MAC Championship trophy after his team defeated the Buffalo Bulls 30-29 at Ford Field on Nov. 30, 2018 in Detroit.
Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Rod Carey celebrates with the MAC Championship trophy after his team defeated the Buffalo Bulls 30-29 at Ford Field on Nov. 30, 2018 in Detroit. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Just call it the "Champions Bowl."

The champions of the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA will meet Dec. 18 in the Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium on the campus of Florida Atlantic University.

Northern Illinois (8-5) upset the Buffalo Bulls in Friday night's MAC Championship, while UAB (10-3) defeated Middle Tennessee 27-25 in Saturday's C-USA Championship to win its first league title since the football program was resurrected in 2017.

The Huskies become the first team to return to the Boca Raton Bowl. They lost to Marshall 52-23 in the inaugural game in 2014.

"The game didn't go the way we wanted, but we liked everything else about it," Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey told reporters Sunday.

Northern Illinois ranks first nationally in total defense and leads the country in quarterback sacks behind junior defensive end Sutton Smith, a two-time MAC defensive player of the year.

The Huskies are 0-4 in the state of Florida since Carey became head coach prior to the Orange Bowl to conclude the 2012 season.

Six players on the Northern Illinois roster hail from the Sunshine State.

"The recruiting side of this is huge for us, there's no question," Carey said.

In the two seasons since UAB brought back football, the Blazers have gone 17-8 and 13-3 against C-USA competition -- the most of any league school during that span.

"This was kind of the next step," UAB head coach Bill Clark said.

The Boca Raton Bowl will be just the second bowl game for the Blazers in school history.

Clark said this was a game in which his team wanted to play.

"We played FAU there back in '14 and just have great memories of that area," Clark said.

This is the sixth time a conference champion will play in the Boca Raton Bowl. This year's bowl game is the only one to feature a matchup of two conference champions outside the New Year's Six.