After NIU's 45-35 victory over Idaho, the Huskies (2-0) return to Huskie Stadium for their home opener. Last week NIU won by 10, yet you'd think the sky was falling in DeKalb with many people upset by the small margin of victory over an inferior team (Idaho). This week they play a very solid FCS team in Eastern Illinois (3-0).
The EIU Panthers have beaten FBS opponent San Diego State already this season and even though SDSU isn't very good, it's still impressive nonetheless. The Panthers have a very potent offense and have been playing well. Last week EIU's quarterback Jimmy Garappolo threw for seven touchdowns. SEVEN!
This is the most potent offensive attack the Huskies have seen all year, and should be a good test for how they will fare against an offense like Ball State down the road. This offense starts and ends with Garappolo and wide receiver Erik Lora. Lora has six touchdowns and is averaging 136 receiving yards a game. As for Garappolo: He has fourteen TDs to one INT, has thrown for an average of 427 yards-per-game and has a 63 percent completion rate. The Panthers actually have a decent size O-Line (bigger than NIU's surprisingly) at an average of 6'4, 299 pounds. As for the run game, they don't rely on it too often, but Shepard Little and Taylor Duncan both have 200 yards rushing. EIU will throw a lot and look to keep the Huskie defense on their heels.
The secondary and linebackers will need to perform better than they did last week, against an excellent aerial attack. Expect the NIU defense to give up yards, but take a bend but don't break approach.
The EIU defense is giving up 445 yards a game. Considering they haven't faced a potent offense, especially anyone close to NIU's caliber, that is a bit of a concern for the Panthers. They have a good size D-Line and have accumulated eight sacks this season. Two of the top tacklers are linebackers Antonio Taylor and Rob Haynes. In the secondary, they have seven interceptions, four of which came against SDSU.
But the Huskies are very good on offense. Led by Jordan Lynch, they have put up 75 points in two games. Lynch has accounted for eight total touchdowns and hasn't thrown an interception. The NIU O-line has played great, giving up only two sacks has given Lynch plenty of time to throw the ball. At WR, they are extremely talented. Da'Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis have led the crew so far, both have been getting open a lot and should continue to do so in this game. Although NIU hasn't ran with the running backs a whole lot, it has been effective in the running game. You can expect a heavy dose of Lynch, with a running back platoon behind him.
Overall, I expect EIU to have a nice contingent at Huskie Stadium and I expect them to move the ball fairly well. I think the NIU defense will bend not break against a potent Panthers offense. Playing at home give's the Huskies another advantage. Huskie Stadium is a very tough venue, with fans right on top of you. It's a wind tunnel, and the Huskies have rattled off 21 straight victories there. With this being the first home game following the Orange Bowl expect a close to capacity crowd.. I don't see EIU pulling off this upset. They just don't have the depth to handle a shootout with Lynch and Huskie Stadium should be rocking.
Prediction: NIU 45 EIU 27