Larry English is gone from the NIU defensive end position. How much will that hurt the Huskies in 2009?
Will Chandler Harnish continue his development? And can the Huskies improve from a 6-7 season and make another bowl game?
Head coach Jerry Kill will have to answer those questions here in 2009, which shapes up as a moderate schedule for the Huskies.
Lets dig a little deeper into it.
This game could get really ugly, really fast. Camp
Randall isn't a pretty place to play in.
For the Huskies who did not play in Ann Arbor or Columbus, this will be the most hostile environment they've every played in.
On top of that the Badgers are a solid team with depth. John Clay is a semi-truck at running back and
Nick Toon will be stretching out the Huskie DBs.
Dustin Sherer will likely not be running the offense in his senior season and premiere back P.J. Hill has graduated.
The O-line is nasty and big and the defense is prototypical of the Big 10. NIU will need to be in
mid-season form right away.
Unlike when NIU lost to Southern Illinois in 2007,
this is not a trap game for the Huskies.
The Leathernecks really don't feature too much but as with any team, in any game, don't get caught
If the Huskies play their game, work the ball on the ground to set up the pass game and keeps the game in front of them on defense, they will have a solid win here.
Again, just don't underestimate your opponent and end up like Michigan against Appalachian State (though not quite the same proportion).
A lot of people are writing Purdue off in the Big 10. And they should.
Joe Tiller and Curtis Painter is gone, however, Danny
Hope's team is sort of a wild card. I really can't put my finger on what the Boilermakers are going to have this year so I'm having trouble predicting the outcome.
I think Harnish will have a chance to
shine if he passes accurately and stays mobile.
Seeing how this will only be Purdue's third game, I'll go with a Huskies victory. Purdue will get better as the season goes so its good NIU catches them now.
This was one of NIU's two wins in 2007. That 2007 team was a lot better than the 2009 team aside from the quarterback position.
That aside, the Huskies should have a win here. Idaho is a perennial Bottom 10 team in the NCAA.
Look for DeMarcus Grady to get some action
along with all three of Me'co Brown, Chad Spann and Justin Anderson to get about 10-15 carries each.
Yes, it will be that not close. Kill will be able to run, run, run!
One of my biggest worries for NIU is
the defense. Mainly the pass rush and DBs. Now Tim Hiller gets thrown
in the mix.
Coming off of knee surgery Hiller should be back to full strength by this game and will have one game in Michigan (possibly a win) under his belt.
WMU's defense is suspect so I'm going with a
shootout as the result. The Broncos have a better offense with West and Hiller, so I'm going WMU.
We all know what happened on Homecoming last year versus Toledo, 38-7.
Can the Huskies repeat in the Glass Bowl? If the Huskies think this will be a cake walk they're sorely mistaken.
Aaron Opelt will have another year under his belt and the Rockets always, always play NIU hard at home.
The Huskies are the better team but they have a
bad history in Toledo. The Rockets are an improved team and I think the combo of Opelt and DuJuan Collins will give the defense fits.
That Barry Church guy isn't bad either. If it weren't for the history books, I'd be calling this a trap game, but its not. Huskies fall in a close one.
Oxford always brought back memories for Joe Novak.
Jerry Kill can start making good ones there too. The RedHawks haven't been too great since great return man Ryne Robinson was in prime form.
That was the Garrett Wolfe days. Their QB Daniel Radabaugh is progressing but he has no weapons to really use.
The defense is suspect and this will be a good game for NIU to rebound with if my predictions are correct.
The Zips, as with most MAC East teams, have a high-powered offensive threat. That's about all they have.
NIU's defense needs to be on their game for this one. The Huskies do not want another shootout like the MAC Championship game in 2005.
Since I don't see Akron putting on a clinic, especially at Huskie Stadium, on Halloween, when the majority of student body will be in DeKalb (those not too hungover to make at least).
I'll give the Zips a little more credit than they might deserve in this one but still a solid NIU victory.
Led by former Michigan coordinator Ron English the
Eagles will be improved, I just need another year or two before I pick them over NIU.
The Huskies have built their tradition and beating EMU has been part of that recently. The Eagles have been terrible and on year of English won't make it a complete turnaround.
After taking awhooping last year at home the Eagles will find no comfort at Huskie Stadium. Harnish and Brown take control in this one and rout EMU right
back down Annie Glidden Road.
Ball State seems to be the consensus No. 4 team in the West.
That said, the Huskies are only No. 3. BSU exploited the Huskies last season and return some big guys on defense.
Nate Davis is gone, thank heaven, but MiQuale Lewis is still there. Keep in mind NIU lost that game last year, in all its ugliness, when Davis did not have top receiver Dante Love.
So this game rests on the quarterbacks. If
Harnish performs better and leads the offense by avoiding turnovers and the rush, the Huskies will be in it.
It also rests on redshirt freshman Kelly Page, who from what I've heard, isn't bad. I think Page
feels some pressure in this one and forces the ball a few too many times, and the Huskies prevail.
TRAP GAME!! The Bobcats return star quarterback Boo Jackson(yes, best name in the MAC) and he looks to improve and turn the ball over less. Sounds familiar.
But Athens is not an easy place to play,
nor are the Bobcats who gave Ohio State a good run last season in Columbus.
The MAC East takes such a beating its so easy to overlook teams that aren't this year's Temples and Bowling Greens (see Buffalo last year).
Ohio has a great chance to pull off an upset here at home and send the Huskies to Central Michigan reeling.
A key for NIU will be to not to look ahead to CMU and keep the focus on containing Jackson and winning this game.
I think Ohio comes up big in this game,
as they may still be in MAC Championship game contention, and beat the Huskies.
OK, so last year the Huskies lost on a few
misfortunes and risky 2pt. Conversion calls by Coach Kill.
Good confidence heading into the game this year, right? Only if you can look past the fact that the Chippewas did what NIU did against the
Salukis in 2007.
They seemed to give up in the second half. A home
crowd won't let that happen and Mt. Pleasant won't be so pleasant for the Huskies.
Dan LeFevour has serious Heisman talk behind him and a nice Sports Illustrated feature (cursed, perhaps???).
Antonio Brown and LeFevour has been a sick combination for a few years now and junior wide out could be NFL bound by the time this game starts.
I don't like saying there's no chance, but there's no way if LeFevour and Brown are healthy and in the game that Huskies win this game.
Overall I have the Huskies 7-5 on the season which could be good enough for another bowl game.
I think that will rank them No. 3 in MAC
West behind WMU and CMU. This is still a young team with a lot of kinks to work out, so keep that in mind, but Kill has them headed in the right direction.
Harnish will have a solid season but I still have
questions if Brown is a feature back at this level.
Based on the depth chart, I like Chad Spann as the No. 1 guy with Brown as the change of pace back more. Kill will likely go Brown and then Spann.
I think the defense has a lot to prove in the secondary and pass rush. Larry English is gone but Jake Coffman will fill in well. I just wonder if
David Bryant is enough at the DB spot.