Preview 2018: Previewing and looking ahead to the Northern Illinois Huskies season with what you need to know.
Preview 2018: Northern Illinois Huskies
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players, Key Game, Fun Stats
– What Will Happen & Win Total Prediction
– Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis
– Northern Illinois Previews 2017 | 2016 | 2015
And now it’s NIU’s turn.
The MAC West gave the world the Row The Boaters from Western Michigan two years ago on the way to the New Year’s Six appearance, and last year’s Toledo team was a force – right up until it inexplicably gacked in the blowout Dollar General Bowl loss to Appalachian State.
But those two have some work to do to get back to form, and they’re certainly not going to be the killers of the past few seasons.
Northern Illinois has the pieces in place to be that Next West Team Up in the progression, and while it’s not going to be as good as the ’16 Broncos or the ’17 Rockets, it has to be good enough to take back its rightful place in the MAC Championship again.
A mainstay in the conference title game from 2010 to 2015 won three of the six as it rolled through double-digit win seasons without seemingly breathing hard.
And now it’s back. After going 5-7 two years ago and looking like a program about to pivot, it should’ve beaten Boston College, it did beat Nebraska, and it hung tough at San Diego State on the way to a solid rebound, eight-win campaign.
But again, this is a program that plays for MAC championships. And now it’s good enough to get back there again as head man Rod Carey should have everything in place after rebuilding the talent level again.
Call last year dress rehearsal for the real showtime about to come.
The Huskies did fine last season without the offense hitting on all cylinders. QB Marcus Childers is past his freshman year, the underclassman running backs are veterans now, and there a just enough good receivers to expect more of a downfield passing game. And best of all, just like it was when NIU was crushing and killing, the line has the talent to be a force.
The nation’s best pass rushing defense – or, right there with Miami in terms of overall production – welcomes back backfield terror Sutton Smith, but it loses just about everyone from the linebacking corps. The D got the job done from everywhere, so it won’t be just one guy, but the spotlight is on Smith to do that again, and be one of the most consistently amazing pass rushers in college football.
The MAC all-star talent is in place, the team is better than last year’s version, the coaching staff should be fine after a few changes, and the expectations are reasonably high again.
NIU should be back to being NIU.