Before you look forward, you have to look back.
You have to assess what put Northern Illinois in position to lose to Central Michigan, a team whose only win had come against South Carolina State. You have to understand why the team picked by many to win the Western division, couldn't get out of its own way to beat the team picked by no sane person to win five games.
Defense? Eh, we have been there and done that.
Perhaps the team just wasn't ready to play. Did the road trip to Central take something out of them?
Did the hostile environment take away from the Huskies' ability to think on offense?
After all, this wasn't exactly Wisconsin's defense out there. This was Central Michigan, the team slaughtered by Western Michigan and Michigan State. The Michigan-on-Michigan violence in those games made mothers around the state cry tears of agony.
Yet through the first quarter, Northern Illinois' celebrated offense had just 36 yards of offense until its 65-yard drive that ended in a missed field goal.
Grand total: 101 yards, 0 points.So now comes Kent State, who can't move the ball on offense and can't really stop anyone on defense either.
They are coming to DeKalb, so there can be no road trip excuses. They are coming off their own disappointment, a seven-point loss to a very good Ohio team, a game that the Flashes could have stolen.
But they stopped themselves. They had four turnovers, including two that stopped drives before they had barely begun.
They failed to covert two fourth down chances in the final quarter. Even the worst Division 1 teams manage to convert about half of their chances.
Even making just one of those would have kept them alive.
Instead, Kent State blew its chance, much like Northern Illinois did for not showing in the first quarter.
But here is the thing. Kent State could honestly win against Northern Illinois, much in the same way they almost won against Ohio.
If the defense plays about the same, shutting down the run (which didn't get a chance to get going for the Huskies against Central Michigan), and then containing the passing game, this game could be theirs.
It isn't like the Northern Illinois defense has learned how to stop anyone.
Not even playing one of the worst offenses in the MAC last week was enough to make them better. It might even have made them worse.
Things have gotten so bad that fans on message boards have Kent State beating Northern Illinois, or at least saying that the anemic offense that the Flashes trot out will score 40-plus points.
These are the most rabid fans of Northern Illinois, and they have absolutely no faith in their team to stop an offense that couldn't score against a pack of middle school kids on recess.
After a post mentioned how bad Kent State was, here were some of the quotes:
When even your biggest supporters are turning into non-believers (and these were the same fans that skewered this writer for saying the defense wouldn't be that great), you need help.
And the Flashes might not provide that.
Look, it isn't easy to say how Kent State is going to manage to do this.
The statistics have been so poor that even ESPN won't list them
But perhaps it will be the running game, a method that has seen some success from Wisconsin and the triple option opponents. Heck, if I were Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell, I would line Mr. Interception Jacquise Terry up behind center and start running some bastardized version of the option with Anthony Meray and Trayion Durham.
At least they know that works against the Northern Illinois defense; and they could be assured of scoring at least 25 points.
Here are things Northern Illinois could try if they don't want to have two major blemishes on their record (no harm in losing to Wisconsin, just minor harm in losing to Kansas):
- Slow the game down a little more: Chandler Harnish could use an extra few beats to get his offense ready, so give it to him. The Huskies have been running themselves crazy trying to stop triple options and then run a no-huddle, so keep the defense off the field just a tad longer. HUDDLE UP! Take five extra seconds. Give the coaches on the sideline time to make adjustments for the next defensive series.
- Onside kick more often: If you are going with the no-huddle option still, then you might as well just play the gimmick game with your kicking. Score, then onside kick. At worst, you give a bottom 20 offense a short field, which might not hurt you. At best, you get the ball back again and keep your biggest albatross in the defense off the field for a little longer.
- Blitz on every down: Remember playing video games? Remember how much fun it was to blitz on every play? Remember how it sometimes burned you, but often you could force a fumble or at least get the other guy so out of his game, you could win. Hey, the Huskies defense can't get much worse! Blitz every play and make Kent State just collapse on itself. What could go wrong here?
Ok, so maybe the first option is the only sane one in the bunch, but they all have their own merits, including getting the fans in the stands something to either cheer loudly for, or just another reason to drink.
But most importantly, start thinking out of the box, Dave Doeren. The box hasn't exactly worked so far this season.
Northern Illinois is a 17 point favorite at home. I am not expecting a cover here.