By the Numbers:
The games between the Toledo Rockets (7-3, 5-1 MAC) and the (#16) Northern Illinois Huskies (10-0, 6-0 MAC) have had a huge impact on the MAC West for quite some time now, and this year is no different. The winner of this game controls the destiny in getting to the MAC Championship game. A win for NIU and they are in, conversely, a win for Toledo and they would be in (pending they don't lose to Akron). The Rockets have won five in a row since that loss to Ball State back in late September - scoring 45 points per game since. The Rockets, behind the legs of David Fluellen and Kareem Hunt, ranks in the top 15 in rushing - gaining nearly 250 yards per game and QB Terrance Owens has played solid football all season long. But even putting up big offensive numbers, some of those games have been real close.
And, despite Jayrone Elliott's seven sacks, the Rocket defense has given up just under 28 points a contest and allowed Buffalo to claw it's way back last week, needed a last minute TD to put down Bowling Green, and was in a double-overtime thriller before they bested Navy. As for the Huskies, they enter this week having won 15 straight on the road and 23 straight against the conference opponents (both FBS bests). And, luckily for NIU, they have Jordan Lynch on offense because they have also struggled defensively (usually in the first half), as they are giving up over 25 points per game. Lately however, the defense has shown a lot of improvement...especially against Ball State. Lynch, with help from Cameron Stingily, has led the Huskies to the sixth best rushing attack (with 303.8 yards per game) and the sixth best scoring offense (scoring 44.6 points per game) in the FBS.
Six Names to Know:
Normally it's only four names you need to know...but this game is special, so we're giving you two extra names for FREE!
Jordan Lynch, NIU's quarterback, will be a name you hear all night long. There is a reason he is a Heisman candidate...he just plays smart, aggressive football and has a knack for finding the endzone. Lynch has thrown for 2216 yards and he has also rushed for a MAC-best 1273 yards, eight most in the FBS and most for a QB this season. Along with his nearly 1300 rushing yards, he has added 21 passing TDs (second most in the MAC) and 14 rushing scores (6th in the FBS, 1st in the MAC).
Last week, it was all about Jimmy Ward and the secondary for NIU's defense...this week the work will rest on the broad shoulders of Jamal Bass and Boomer Mays. Bass and Mays both play linebacker for the Huskies - and they have had great years so far, and will need to do so this Wednesday to stop the Toledo rushing attack. While NIU has a solid D-line, the great running game Toledo has means the NIU LBs will need to be on their toes. Bass leads the team with 67 tackles, he also has 2 forced fumbles along with 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Mays is third with 53 tackles, 4.5 in the backfield, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and also has a blocked kick.
As just mentioned, Toledo has a great run game: second in the MAC (NIU is first). Normally this would be all about David Fluellen, who averages 7 yards per carry, with 1067 yards on just 152 carries and 10 TDs. But Fluellen has had some injury issues the last few weeks and may not play. If he sits, the Huskies still not breath a sigh of relief because Kareem Hunt, their backup, has done just as well. Hunt, on 99 touches, has gained 672 yards (6.8 yards/carry) and six TDs.
Terrance Owens, the Rocket quarterback, has played well so far this season. He does not have the ground game Lynch does, but he is very mobile - taking off 34 times for 122 yards on the season. Owens has been solid in the passing game though, amassing 1837 yards and 13 TDs to just six INTs and completes nearly 62% of his passes.
How To Watch:
TV: ESPN2 or ESPN3 (online only), 8 P.M. ET (7 Central)
Can't Watch? Listen:
NIU fans: 670 AM (Chicago), 1360 AM (DeKalb), or 98.9 FM (DeKalb)
Toledo fans: 1370 AM (Toledo), 850 AM (Cleveland), or 1310 AM (Detroit)