Northern Illinois Huskies
Head Coach Rod Carey
2014 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 MAC West
2014 Postseason results: Lost to Marshall 52-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl
2015 returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 2000/1
Odds to win 2015 MAC Championship Game: +325
Regular season wins: over 8 -145 /under 8 +115
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The Northern Illinois Huskies have played in five straight MAC Championship games with titles in three of the last four years. Last year, the Huskies went 11-3 including 7-1 in the MAC West. After early losses to Arkansas and Central Michigan, the Huskies would win seven straight games including a 51-17 rout of Bowling Green in the MAC Championship game in Detroit. NIU would end up getting blown out by Marshall though 52-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Still, fourteen starters are back for coach Rod Carey, including eight on defense. The goal is another conference title and a ninth bowl appearance since 2004.
The Huskies averaged 441 yards per game on offense, including 249 rushing and 192 passing. NIU was #17 nationally in rushing but #99 out of 128 teams in passing. The Huskies averaged 32 points a game. NIU was in the top 50 nationally in total offense and scoring. Six starters are back for third year coordinator Bob Cole.
Quarterback Drew Hare is back for his junior season. Last year, he competed with fellow sophomore Anthony Maddie and senior Matt McIntosh to replace school legend Jordan Lynch at quarterback. The battle lasted until the second week of the season when Hare led a mild upset over Northwestern to secure the starting job for the rest of the season. Hare completed 59.5% of his passes for 2,322 yards with 18 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and he also rushed for 900 yards on 159 carries with 8 touchdowns. Maddie will serve as the back-up in 2015 after throwing for 227 yards and an interception, and rushing for 201 yards on 44 carries with a touchdown. McIntosh has graduated.
Running back Cameron Stingily is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers after rushing 193 times for 971 yards with 14 touchdowns. The Huskies also lose Akeem Daniels who had 71 carries for 390 yards and a touchdown, along with 11 catches and a touchdown. Joel Bouagnon is back though after rushing for 655 yards on 113 carries with 5 touchdowns, along with 13 catches and a touchdown. Keith Harris, Jr, Jordan Huff and Draco Smith will also get plenty of carries. Huff had 3 rushing touchdowns last year. Shane Wimann will start at fullback.
Receiver Da’Ron Brown is now with the Kansas City Chiefs after making 68 catches for 1,065 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown. The loss of Brown might be cushioned by the return of Tommylee Lewis who had 86 catches in 2013 but battled turf toe in 2014 and only had 4 catches. Juwan Brescacin is also back after making 31 catches for 445 yards and 6 touchdowns. Aregeros Turner is also back after making 37 catches for 398 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also adding 2 rushing touchdowns. Chad Beebe, son of former NFL player Don, had 21 catches for 219 yards and a touchdown. He suffered a broken arm in the MAC Championship game last year, but is expected to be healthy for fall camp. Tight end Desroy Maxwell had 9 catches for 90 yards last year.
The line returns only 2 starters with center Andrew Ness amd left guard Aidan Conlon. However, the other three starters played a lot in 2014. The line allowed only 14 sacks in 2014, and opened up holes for Hare and the running backs.
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Last year, NIU allowed 392 yards per game including 229 passing and 163 rushing yards. The Huskies allowed 26 points per game. NIU was +15 in turnovers for the season and forced 32 sacks. Eight starters are back for coordinator Jay Niemann.
The defensive line must replace end Jason Meehan, but the other three starters are back. Tackles William Lee and Corey Thomas join end Perez Ford as returning starters.
Rasheen Lemon was supposed to headline the linebacking unit but he was suspended indefinitely after an April arrest for domestic violence. He was second in tackles with 90 last year. Boomer Mays is the only other returning starter in the linebackers.
Three starters are back in the secondary including corners Anthony Brooks and Paris Logan, plus safety Marlon Moore. Moore led the Huskies in tackles with 99. Both Moore and Logan were All-MAC last year.
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Sophomore kicker Christian Hagan made 9 of 12 field goals last year after taking over for the struggling Tyler Wedel, who also handled the punting duties. Wedel has graduated and freshman Peter Deppe should take over as the punter. Turner will return kicks and Lewis will return punts. Huff and Beebe could also be in the mix in the return game.
The Huskies get two warm-up games at home against UNLV and Murray State before traveling to Ohio State and Boston College. In October, NIU has road games at Central Michigan and Miami-(OH), along with home games against Ball State and Eastern Michigan. In November, the Huskies travel to Toledo and Buffalo, before hosting Western Michigan and Ohio to end the season. All games in November are on Tuesday or Wednesday for the Huskies.
The offense should put up similar numbers to last year, and could be slightly better. With all the sacks and turnovers NIU forced, the defense should have put up better numbers than they did. I think the defense will be much better this year. Besides a trip to defending national champion Ohio State, every other game is winnable. As it has in the last few seasons, the Toledo game will likely decide the West title and perhaps the MAC. I think the Huskies win at least 10 games and have a shot at qualifying for one of the New Year’s Six Bowl games.
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