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Northern Illinois

College Football

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Gone are the years of dominating the MAC and reaching a bowl game for Northern Illinois after finishing with just five wins last season. The Huskies could have another trying season with quarterback still in question entering the fall. This team has some playmakers, but they could once again face some issues if quarterback isn’t determined early.

Ryan Graham and Daniel Santacaterina are the top competitors for the starting job and both saw limited time last season as the Huskies used four different guys under center. Neither was great, Graham throwing for 8 TDs and 6 INTs, while Santacaterina played in the final two games, tossing one touchdown with two picks. With a line that features Max Scharping, one of the best tackles in the conference, NIU will try and win on the ground with two more returning linemen. Jordan Huff (703 yards, 5 TDs) is expected to see most of the work with Marcus Jones and Tommy Mister behind him. The Huskies lose their top guy at receiver so a new crop will need to step up from Christian Blake (457 yards) to Chad Beebe and D.J. Brown. This offense scored 30.5 points per game last year, but unless the line completely dominates, that total may be hard to match.

The front seven is the biggest problem on the defense that turned things around in the second half of 2016 and that led to four wins in the last five games. That said, most of those wins came against weaker teams, so this defense is still a work in progress and can’t be trusted just yet. Nose guard William Lee provides seniority on the line while Bobby Jones has the most experience of the young, yet athletic linebackers. The secondary may have to carry this group early on with probably the deepest and most talented one in the conference. Shawun Lurry leads at cornerback with senior Mycial Allen at safety. The Huskies have some work to do up front and if they don’t figure that out early, could lead to another rough start to the campaign.

Northern Illinois opens things with a winnable game against Boston College followed by the Eastern Illinois game that needs to be a win before trips to Nebraska and SDSU. The Huskies have some favorable games and should come away with three home wins at a minimum in conference play. Yet, with trips to Toledo and CMU late, at least two losses in the MAC will be expected from this team.

But that’s looking on the extreme bright side. With a new quarterback and offense that probably won’t improve and defense that may be worse, the Huskies will just be hoping for a bowl game. With weaker opponents out of the East division, that will be possible, but not guaranteed. The Huskies have +1100 odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the conference, placing them ahead of CMU for third place in the West division. With an over/under at 6 wins, a bowl is still the goal.


2017 Northern Illinois Huskies Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Boston College
Sept. 9 vs. Eastern Illinois
Sept. 16 at Nebraska
Sept. 30 at San Diego State

Oct. 7 vs. Kent State
Oct. 14 at Buffalo
Oct. 21 at Bowling Green

Oct. 26 vs. Eastern Michigan
Nov. 2 at Toledo
Nov. 9 vs. Ball State
Nov. 15 vs. Western Michigan
Nov. 24 at Central Michigan

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