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2018

Northern Illinois

College Football

Betting Preview

Northern Illinois was in the hunt for the MAC’s West division all last season, but a couple late road losses led to an 8-5 record with six wins in conference play. The Huskies should again contend for the division, although with a rough non-conference slate, aren’t guaranteed six wins or a bowl game. They have the second-best odds to win the conference at +320 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) with an over/under of 6.5 wins.

There won’t be many changes from last year’s team that wasn’t weak in any area on the field. The key is sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers, who won the position last season and led the offense to some big games. He went on to finish with 15 passing touchdowns with 454 rushing yards and five more TDs on the ground, although his 6.03 yards per attempt still needs some work. That should be possible behind one of the best offensive lines in the conference led by left tackle Max Scharping, who looks headed to the NFL. The running game will need to improve outside of Childers with Marcus Jones (347 yards) and Tre Harbison (231 yards) the two returnees in the backfield. Childers gets a couple of his top receivers back between Spencer Tears (461 yards) and D.J. Brown (342 yards) so that shouldn’t be a worry.

The defense was actually the better group last year holding opponents to 22 points per game and with most of the key pieces back, shouldn’t drop off. The biggest name from this group is All-American defensive end Sutton Smith, who had a ridiculous 14 sacks last year. Senior Josh Corcoran should get less attention on the other side and be in for a nice season. The linebacking corps is a bit unknown with none of them returning starters, although Kyle Pugh returns from injury. The secondary was the weakest spot in the defense last season, but is filtered with experience in two seniors at corner and two juniors at safety.

All signs point to NIU being just as good if not better than a year ago and that should lead to another competitive campaign in the West division. The problem for the Huskies is a brutal non-conference slate that features trips to Iowa, FSU and BYU in addition to hosting Utah. If they lose all four of those, six wins are needed in MAC play for a bowl game and that should be attainable as long as they can steal road games against weaker teams in the conference. The important contests will be home against Ohio and Toledo with the finale at Western Michigan possibly being for a division title. The offense should be better behind an experienced line and the defense has enough pieces to stay relevant so the over 6.5 will be possible. The problem lies in the schedule where the Huskies may not win a non-conference game. 

 

2018 Northern Illinois Huskies Football Schedule

Sept. 1 at Iowa

Sept. 8 vs. Utah

Sept. 15 vs. Central Michigan

Sept. 22 at Florida State

Sept. 29 at Eastern Michigan

Oct. 6 at Ball State

Oct. 13 vs. Ohio

Oct. 27 at BYU

Nov. 1 at Akron

Nov. 7 vs. Toledo

Nov. 14 vs. Miami (OH)

Nov. 20 at Western Michigan

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