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San Diego State Football: Aztecs schedule 2016-17 home-and-home series with Northern Illinois

Coach Rocky Long and company add strong team after strong team to their future schedules for one simple reason: to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

SDSU just keeps on bolstering its future schedules. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune's Tod Leonard, SDSU will play a 2016-17 home-and-home series with the Mid-American Conference's Northern Illinois University--2013's 12th-best scoring offense. The Aztecs will travel to DeKalb in 2016 and the Huskies will come to San Diego in 2017.

Remember when Northern Illinois was the next BCS-buster in 2012? The Huskies finished the regular season 12-1, 9-0 in MAC play. Their near-perfect season and utter domination of opponents (average margin of victory was 21.8 points) earned them a spot opposite Florida State in the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl. The Seminoles outmatched Northern Illinois and won the game 31-10, but the Huskies flashed signs of mid-major-powerhouse potential.

The 2013 season confirmed that potential. The Huskies finished the regular season 12-1 (beating SDSU nemesis Eastern Illinois). But a regular season finale loss to Bowling Green forced Northern Illinois out of BCS contention, and it eventually lost to the Mountain West's Utah State in the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl 21-14.

Despite ending last season poorly, Northern Illinois has become an attractive destination for mid-major high school and junior college football talent--the Huskies landed 31 recruits for 2014, nine of which ESPN gave three stars.

This year the boys from DeKalb lose their Heisman-candidate quarterback Jordan Lynch--a big reason for the Huskies' success. But hopefully NIU will maintain their success and quality of play at least until 2016-17, when they play SDSU.

This series will also give SDSU an opportunity to show college football fans outside the Western United States that SDSU doesn't just play basketball--same with the North Carolina game this year.

At least, that's what Coach Rocky Long hopes. At the MWC media days, Long told The Mighty 1090 AM's Darren Smith that SDSU football will only grow as a program if it plays the best and beats the best.

"You've got to be able to go to (the tough team's home) and beat them. I think that's what Coach Fisher has done with the basketball team. I think we can do that with the football team," he said.

SDSU plays at North Carolina and Oregon State this year. It plays at Cal and Penn State in 2015. The Aztecs then host Cal in 2016 and travel to Northern Illinois. In 2017, SDSU hosts Northern Illinois and travels to Arizona State. They play the Sun Devils at home in 2018 and travel to UCLA in 2019. In 2020, the Aztecs host the Bruins (boy, that'll be fun). SDSU plays at Arizona in 2021 and then hosts the Wildcats the next year.

Tough schedules, but if SDSU wants to rise in the ranks of college football, tough schedules will have to become the norm.