It seems like a century since the debacle in Kent....here's what we can expect from the Huskies.
They are on a 4-game winning streak, but before that did have a loss to CMU and Kansas and were within an extra point of going to OT vs. Buffalo. They are 6-3 and would win the West if they won out.
How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?
28 which is on the high side. They start 9 seniors on offense.
Chandler Harnish is 11th in the nation in total offense and 19th in passing efficiency.
Kicker Matthew Sims is 12th in FGs and 16th in scoring.
What is their turnover ratio?
They are +3, 4th in the MAC.
How is their QB Play?
Very, very good. Harnish is probably the best QB in the MAC and certainly the most complete. He is second in the MAC in passing efficiency and 5th in rushing. He is, in fact, their leading rusher. He's also a senior who was First-team All-MAC this year and has to be an odds on favorite for MAC Offensive Player of the Year, at a minimum.
What is their scoring and yards per play?
They lead the MAC and are 10th in the nation with 41 points scored per game. They also lead the MAC with 6.7 yards per play.
They are second in the MAC and 9th in FBS in rushing yards per game. However, at 5.9 yards per rush, they are tops in the MAC.
Do they pass the ball?
They are very efficient. They are 9th in the MAC in yards passing per game. However, only Temple and EMU have attempted fewer passes. They complete a robust 63% of their passes for 12.5 yards per reception, and 18 TDs over 4 INTs. As a team, they are 3rd in the MAC in pass efficiency. This is a run team that can punish you when you move men into the box.
They run on about 59% of their plays, but have been productive running and passing.
Do they convert on 3rd Down?
Very well, they are 1st in the MAC and 8th in FBS with 50%.
Do they score in the red zone?
First of all, they have 50 red zone trips, which 10 more than the next team. This has been a long time hallmark of their program...they have 5.6 points per trip which is excellent.
Do they protect the quarterback?
They do....they have allowed only 5 sacks this year, which is 1.9% of their passing attempts.
Clearly, this is an offensive juggernaut, and while their numbers were helped by the UT game, they were very solid before that as well. Other than Wisconsin, their low-water mark for scoring is 31 against the Bulls. They put 51 on WMU--a defense BG had trouble with. Suffice it to say, this is a very powered offense and BG will need to play its very best to get enough stops to win.
Well, the story turns a little worse here for NIU. As good as they have been on offense, they have been just slightly less bad on defense. They did hold Kent to 10, but they have given up a boatload of points...last in the MAC, in fact and 109th in FBS. At 5.8 yards per play, only two teams have worse records.
On a yards per game basis they are 11th, but they are 6th in the MAC for yards per attempt allowed.
Could they be passed on?
They are 12th in pass efficiency defense as well. They allowed 59% completions (not so bad) but 13.4 yards per reception, which is really high...plus 22 TDs over 7 INTs.
Nope, they are 11th at about 43%.
Do they defend in the red zone?
Remember how they had 50 red zone trips and that was 10 more than the next team. They've given up 45 and allowed 41 scores....and their per trip average is 5.7 points per trip, almost exactly what they are getting on the offensive end.
This is one thing they can do. They have 18 sacks on 298 attempts, or 6.0% of passing attempts, which is mostly average.
Very interesting profile here. They get the shortest kicks in the MAC. However, they have not allowed even one yard of returns yet, meaning they are 8th in net punting. They have 20 fair catches, 8 inside the 20 and not one touchback.
They are 7th in punt returns and they have blocked 3 punts this year and have one TD off that.
Sims is very good. 11 out of 13 inside 40 and 3 of 6 outside 40. Has been blocked 3 times. Long is 44.
Teams start on the 32, which is among the worst in the MAC.
They are 9th in kickoff returns. They average starting on their own 28. Having said that, they obviously lit up the Rockets with 2 TDS--2 of only 3 Kickoff return TDs in the MAC this year, which surprises me. (All against Toledo, BTW).
On the NIU side, they are now in a position to win a title if they can close the door. They are coming off the Rocket game on a regular week's rest, but now can see everything in front of them.
BG, meanwhile, has had some extra time to lick its wounds after the Kent game. We will see a lot from how BG responds. They are capable at playing well enough to beat NIU, or, we are capable of getting blown right off the field.
To me, the first clue will be offense. BG must execute on offense against this flawed NIU defense. If BG keeps making mistakes on the offensive side of the ball and keeps getting forced off the field, they have no chance of competing.
Second, the special teams has to get back to where it was before.
Finally, the defense has to get some stops. I don't think it is reasonable to get a ton, but a few. A couple. Historically, our program has had little success with dual-threat QBs and it would be nice to see some effective game planning on that front, as well.
I think we are better than we showed in Kent, and this is an example to demonstrate it. BG needs two wins for a .500 season and still has East hopes alive, but needs this win at least for the second one. More importantly, we want the team to finish strong as a platform to next year, when we should be able to compete, and you'd hate to head into that losing 3 of your last 4.