FACTS & STATS: Site: Peden Stadium (24,000) — Athens, Ohio.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Northern Illinois 4-1, Ohio 3-2. Away Record:
Northern Illinois 4-1, Ohio 1-4. Neutral Record: Northern Illinois 0-0, Ohio
0-0. Conference Record: Northern Illinois 5-1, Ohio 2-4. Series Record:
Northern Illinois leads, 10-9.
GAME NOTES: Bowl eligible once again, the Northern Illinois Huskies will
travel Tuesday to face the Ohio University Bobcats in a Mid-American
Conference matchup at Peden Stadium.
Northern Illinois did something in its last outing no other MAC team has been
able to accomplish all season long: the Huskies took down previously unbeaten
in conference Toledo, 27-24. Having won four straight games, the Huskies are
in the driver’s seat in the MAC West Division and are fighting to make it back
to the conference title game.
Ohio was off last week after the team took down Buffalo, 37-14, in a Nov. 5
contest. Having won two of the team’s last three games, Ohio will try to play
the role of spoiler this week against Northern Illinois.
This meeting will represent the 20th time these conference rivals have met on
the football field, but for the first time since the 2011 MAC Championship
Game. The Huskies own a very slim 10-9 all-time series advantage.
Northern Illinois squared off with Toledo last week in a battle for first
place in the MAC West Division, and it was truly a back-and-forth contest. As
is the signature of Northern Illinois offensive football, the Huskies were
able to gain 226 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns in the
victory. The team is averaging 261.7 rushing ypg this season, and the
backfield is spearheaded by tailback Cameron Stingily (78.4 ypg, 10 total
touchdowns) and quarterback Drew Hare (68.7 rushing ypg, five touchdowns).
Hare has proven to be a more than viable replacement for the departed Jordan
Lynch this season, entering the contest against Ohio with a 141.6 passer
efficiency rating and a completion percentage just under 61 percent. Hare has
thrown for 1,542 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games played, and has thrown
just one interception all season long.
The Huskies, who are averaging 31.5 ppg, are getting the most out of their
skill position players. Top receiving target Da’Ron Brown has a team-best 47
catches for 810 yards and six touchdowns. But it’s the run game that is the
staple for NIU, with seven players that average double-digit rushing ypg.
At times Northern Illinois has struggled defensively this season, especially
when the team took on SEC power Arkansas and lost, 52-14. But since a 34-17
defeat at the hands of Central Michigan, the Huskies have only surrendered
more than 24 points once in a contest (NIU won a 51-41 game against Miami-
Ohio). The team is allowing 25.5 ppg and an even 400.0 offensive ypg to
opponents this season.
Marlon Moore has a team-high 75 tackles this season, and has forced two
fumbles in 10 games played. The real star of the NIU defense has been lineman
Jason Meehan, who, in 10 games played, has registered 9.5 tackles for loss and
seven sacks with five quarterback hurries. The Bobcats will have to keep him
out of the backfield in order to have any success in the run game.
Speaking of the Ohio run game, the Bobcats played exceptionally well against
Buffalo in the team’s last outing using a strong ground attack. Starting
running back A.J. Ouellette gained 155 yards and scored twice, bringing his
season totals to a team-leading 562 yards with six touchdowns. The Bobcats are
averaging 158.7 rushing ypg this season.
The quarterback situation in Athens hasn’t been as sturdy as coach Frank
Solich would have hoped for coming into the season. Derrius Vick began the
year under center, but a switch to JD Sprague came relatively early in the
season. Now it’s Vick again under center, and in six games the redshirt junior
signal caller has throw for five touchdowns and 894 yards, while he’s added
249 rushing yards with a single ground touchdown. It will most likely be Vick
getting yet another start come game time Tuesday.
When the run game is working, Ohio’s offense is sound. But when it’s not, the
Bobcats are in trouble. The team, averaging just 20.8 ppg this season, has
only gotten eight touchdowns through the air combined in 10 games, which means
receivers aren’t being utilized. Sebastian Smith leads the squad with 26
receptions for 319 yards and two touchdowns.
Like most teams, Ohio has had some relatively inconsistent performances from
its defense. Against Western Michigan several weeks ago, the Bobcats couldn’t
stop freshman running back Jarvion Franklin even if they had 2o players on the
field at a time. But then against a strong Buffalo offense, Ohio limited the
Bulls to 14 points. Ohio, which gives up 25.6 ppg and 135.5 rushing ypg to
opponents, may struggle to contain a strong Northern Illinois run attack.
Linebacker Quentin Poling has a team-best 71 tackles, and has added 7.5
tackles for loss and three interceptions to his resume this season. He and
Jovon Johnson have been forces in opponents’ backfields this season, racking
up a combined 16.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. But the defense as a
whole needs to do a better job limiting teams on third down. Opponents are
averaging a 43 percent success rate on third-down conversions.
Now that Northern Illinois is in control of the MAC West Division, coach Rod
Carey and his Huskies will be mounting a full-out assault on the conference
title game. With Toledo (5-1) and Western Michigan (5-1) both very much in the
hunt, every win counts for the Huskies in the final two weeks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 37, Ohio University 21