Northern Illinois Huskies
Head Coach: Rod Carey
2013 Record: 12-2 overall, 8-0 MAC West
2013 Bowl Result: Lost to Utah State 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 9 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2015 College Football Championship Game: field 30-1
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Last season, in the first year under new coach Rod Carey, the Northern Illinois Huskies completed the regular season 12-0. They were one win away from a second straight trip to a BCS Bowl, but the Huskies were routed 47-27 by Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game. A disinterested and disheartened NIU team was then upset by Utah State 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. The season was highlighted by wins over Iowa and Purdue, both of the Big Ten.
Fourteen starters are back for Carey and the Huskies. NIU should again contend for the MAC title along with Bowling Green, Toledo and Ball State.
Nine starters are back for coordinator Bob Cole. The Huskies were #7 nationally in rushing at 297 yards per game and also averaged 223 passing yards per game. NIU was #12 nationally at scoring averaging 40 points a game.
Although most of the pieces are back on offense, the biggest star on offense must be replaced. Quarterback Jordan Lynch is now with the Chicago Bears as a running back. Lynch finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting last season. He threw for 2,892 yards with 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and also rushed for 1,920 yards and 23 touchdowns.
With less than 2 weeks before the 2014 season Carey has yet to announce his starting quarterback. Three players are competing for the job. Matt McIntosh and Drew Hare both took a handful of snaps last season mostly in garbage time of blowouts. They two are competing with Western Michigan transfer Anthony Maddie for the starting job.
Running back Cameron Stingily is expected to miss at least the first month of the season with an undisclosed injury. He had 203 carries for 1,119 yards and 9 touchdowns, plus 7 catches last season. The running backs do receive a boost with the return of Akeem Daniels who missed all of 2013 with a foot injury. Daniels rushed for 447 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2012 and also had 20 catches for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns. If Stingily and Daniels are both healthy later in the season, NIU could have one of the best running back tandems in FBS football.
Senior receivers Da’Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis are both back. Brown had 46 catches for 752 yards and 9 touchdowns. Lewis had 86 catches for 715 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 30 carries for 356 yards and a touchdown. Lewis even threw a touchdown pass. Junior Juwan Brescacin had 33 catches for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Four starters are back for an offensive line that only allowed 11 sacks and paved the way for the Huskies punishing ground attack.
NIU allowed 415 yards per game on defense last year and 25 points a game. Coordinator Jay Niemann only gets five starters back for his defense.
While all four starters are gone from the defensive line, the four projected starters do have a lot of experience with three upperclassmen. Jason Meehan and Perez Ford are projected to start at end. Donovan Gordon and Mario Jones will start on the interior.
All three starters are back for the linebackers including the top two tacklers in Jamaal Bass (87) and Boomer Mays (82). Jamaal payton completes the trio.
The secondary must replace safety Jimmie Ward. Marlon Moore moves from corner to safety.
Punter Tyler Wedel is expected to take over the kicking duties as well in place of Matthew Sims. Wedel made 3 of 5 field goals last year and averaged 40 yards per punt. He placed 14 inside the 20. Lewis will likely be the primary punt and kick return man. He had a kickoff return for a touchdown last year.
Outlook / Schedule
NIU hosts Presbyterian before a potentially challenging three game road trip at Northwestern, UNLV and Arkansas. In conference, the Huskies host Kent State, Central Michigan, Miami, and Toledo. NIU travels to Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Ohio and Western Michigan. The Huskies are scheduled to play 4 of their last five games on the road. Still, I think NIU wins 9 games and the MAC West.
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