Loyola alum Ben LeRoy, Northern Illinois to play on big stage: For the first time in his college career, junior Ben LeRoy (Class of 2016) and the Huskies are in the MAC title game. NIU (7-5, 6-2 MAC West) takes on Buffalo at 6 p.m. Friday at Ford Field in Detroit. Game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

It’s NIU’s seventh trip to the conference championship game in nine seasons but first since 2015.

A 6-foot-2, 302-pound defensive tackle, LeRoy has nine starts and played in all 12 games. He has 32 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Regardless of the outcome, the Huskies will participate in their second bowl game in a row. Last season, NIU played in the Quick Lane Bowl, where it lost to Duke 36-14 to finish 8-5. LeRoy started all 12 games he played and led NIU’s interior lineman with 37 tackles.

As a freshman, LeRoy played in the first eight games (no starts) of the season before suffering an injury. The Huskies went 5-7 and missed out on a bowl game.

A Wilmette native, LeRoy was a three-year varsity player for the Ramblers. He was a key component on Loyola’s 2015 team that captured the Class 8A state championship with a 41-0 win over Marist at NIU’s Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

Ramblers to have presence at Big Ten title game: When Northwestern and Ohio State meet Saturday for the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, two Loyola graduates will be on opposite sides of the field. Kickoff is 7 p.m. and will be aired on FOX.

Eric Eshoo (Class of 2016) is a 6-4, 235-pound junior split back for the Wildcats (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten West), while Peter Badovinac (Class of 2008) is a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten East).

Like LeRoy, Eshoo was a contributor to Loyola’s Class 8A state title in 2015. Badovinac played quarterback for the Ramblers and was the Catholic Blue’s offensive player of the year as a senior. He went to Drake before transferring to Michigan State to finish his playing career.

An Ohio State win puts the Buckeyes squarely in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff. A Northwestern victory means a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Wildcats last played in Pasadena, California, in 1995.

Loyola grad John Shannon set for run at national title with Notre Dame: Unless something crazy happens, Notre Dame will be one of the four teams in this season’s College Football Playoff. The Fighting Irish (12-0) are No. 3 in this week’s rankings and don’t play again in the regular season.

Junior John Shannon (Class of 2016) is an important player for Notre Dame, who completed its first undefeated regular season since 2012. The 6-2, 235-pound Shannon has started 25 consecutive games at long snapper. Last season, he was perfect on 138 opportunities (65 punts, 55 extra points, 18 field goals).

Shannon, a Lake Forest native, was a long snapper and linebacker on Loyola’s 2015 team that won the Class 8A state championship.

The College Football Playoff semifinal games are Dec. 29.