The Duel in DeKalb: A Q&A With


We're a day away from game of the year. Hustle Belt caught up with's Steve Nitz to get an idea of what to expect from the MAC's leader.

1. It's been well documented that Northern Illinois lacks a true geographic rival. That was one factor that contributed to the development of the Bronze Stalk game. While in many years Toledo and NIU have been the teams to beat in the MAC West, now the games with Ball State mean something. Do Huskies fans identify Ball State as their number one rival?

Toledo is still the Huskies' top rival, and I don't see that changing as long as the Rockets remain competitive. However, I think NIU-Ball State is turning into a decent game itself. The last two contests have been competitive, and there's certainly a lot of hype with this one.

2. Jordan Lynch's numbers in 2013 have been staggering. In many games he's nearly beaten the opposition all by himself. How critical is it he gets some help on Wednesday. What sort of a role will Cameron Stingily play?

It's definitely critical that Lynch gets some help, and he has all season. Tommylee Lewis has been one of the best wide receivers in the Mid-American Conference, and fellow wideout Da'Ron Brown has had a good year as well.  I doubt many people who follow the MAC expected Stingily to perform this well, but he's had a real nice year. I think he'll get a fair amount of touches, but Lynch will be the one that carries the offense.

3. NIU's offense is MAC's leading unit. The defense has been suspect at times though, allowing some big numbers to inferior opponents. Can the Huskies win a low scoring affair? Or are we headed for a shootout?

Oh, we're headed for a shootout. Nobody has been able to stop the Huskies this season, and I see Keith Wenning and Co. putting up their share of points as well. The last time NIU played a legitimate quarterback - Eastern Illinois Jimmy Garoppolo (who's an NFL prospect), he threw for 450 yards. This may be one of those stereotypical "last team who has the ball wins" type of games.

4. Which Huskie flying under the radar could be a game changer on Wednesday?

Not sure how far under the radar he is, since he was a first-team All-MAC selection last season, but I'll say safety Jimmie Ward. He's had a great year and always seems to come up with big plays, including the interception against Iowa that led to NIU's game-winning field goal. The Huskies should also get their top corner, Sean Evans, back as well. He's missed the past three games with a knee injury.

5. Is this game bigger for the Huskies than Purdue or Iowa?

I'd say this is the biggest game of the year so far. Every win counts when talking about the BCS, but the MAC West championship is on the line Wednesday as well. Also, Purdue is a very, very bad football team.

6. Prediction time: Final score?

It would not shock me at all to see Ball State win, but I'll go with NIU 41, Ball State 40.

Many thanks to Steve Nitz at  You can follow Steve on Twitter at @SNitz_DDC

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