The Northern Illinois Huskies’ tough 2018 campaign is set to begin on September 1st and, to put it shortly, it could either go very, very wrong... or very, very right.
When they say “The Hard Way”, the Huskies mean it. NIU has a tough non-conference schedule that features match-ups against Iowa, Utah, Florida State, and BYU and don’t get any favors in conference play, drawing the two favorites in the MAC title contention race in Ohio and Toledo. Oh, and they only have five home games. Oh, and they lost star linebacker Jawuan Johnson, as he transferred to TCU.
All that said, they do get Kyle Pugh back, who can hopefully replicate Johnson’s productivity and still have one of, if not the best, defense in the MAC. The offense should be as productive, if not hopefully more, as there is no quarterback battle this season and Marcus Childers has had a season to grow. It will depend on how well the running game goes this season.
So let’s take a closer look at each week...
2018 NIU Huskies Schedule
|9/1||@ Iowa Hawkeyes||2:30||B1G Network|
|9/8||Utah Utes||6:30||ESPN News|
|9/22||@ Florida State Seminoles||TBD||TBD|
|9/29||@ EMU Eagles||5:00||ESPN+|
|10/6||@ Ball State Cardinals||TBD||TBD|
|10/27||@ BYU Cougars||TBD||TBD|
|11/1||@ Akron Zips||6:00||TBD|
|11/20||@ WMU Broncos||6:00||TBD|
Saturday, Sept. 1st: NIU @ Iowa Hawkeyes
The Huskies and Hawkeyes are quite familiar with each other, having played nine times previously. Iowa holds an 8-1 record against NIU but the Huskies won the last time these two teams met back in 2013.
Rod Carey has a good record against B1G teams but, even with all the cautious optimism I have that NIU could walk out of Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes should win this game.
NIU - 17
Iowa - 28
Saturday, Sept. 8th: Utah Utes vs. NIU
The Huskies home opener comes against PAC-12 opponent Utah and will be the first ever meeting between the two teams.
Utah finished last year 7-6 but returns QB Tyler Huntley who, last year, completed 65.4% of his passes and had 2246 yards and a 15/10 touchdown to interception ratio.
This is another game that should favor the P5 team but the Huskies should be able to keep it close. If the defense can make some plays and the offense is able to score, an upset isn’t out of the question.
Utah - 24
NIU - 21
Saturday, Sept. 15th: Central Michigan Chippewas vs NIU
NIU wastes no time starting their MAC schedule as the Chips come to DeKalb in Week 3. The Huskies should get on win column here as their defense is the stronger of the two. Plus, after last years’ epic second half collapse, I’m sure the Huskies want revenge.
CMU - 21
NIU - 35
NIU: 1-2 (1-0 MAC)
Saturday, Sept. 22nd: NIU @ Florida State Seminoles
The Huskies have their work cut out for them when they head to Tallahassee. Sure, FSU struggled last year and lost six of their first nine games. But don’t expect the same this year.
This game could get ugly if Sutton Smith and company can’t slow down the Seminoles. Let’s hope for a repeat of the Nebraska game last year but don’t get too upset if it doesn’t happen.
NIU - 17
FSU - 38
NIU: 1-3 (1-0 MAC)
Saturday, Sept. 29th: NIU @ Eastern Michigan Eagles
NIU has had Eastern’s number the past decade, winning 10 straight against the Eagles (even though it took a come-from-behind win in 2OT last year).
There is no reason to think that should change this season. Huskies should roll here.
NIU - 42
EMU - 21
NIU: 2-3 (2-0 MAC)
Saturday, Oct. 6th: NIU @ Ball State Cardinals
Just like with the Eagles, the Huskies haven’t had any trouble with the Cardinals in nearly a decade, winning nine straight and ten of the last twelve meetings.
Ball State struggled last year so don’t expect the same result (a 63-17 NIU win). This will be a lot closer of a game but NIU should still escape Muncie with a .500 record.
NIU - 35
BSU - 24
NIU: 3-3 (3-0 MAC)
Saturday, Oct. 13th: Ohio Bobcats vs NIU
Ohio is predicted to win the East so this could potentially be a preview of the MAC Championship Game. And, luckily, the Huskies are hosting the Bobcats.
This is a toss up game. The Huskies could easily shut down the Bobcats offense, or Ohio could find ways to torch the NIU secondary. It’ll be a close game but, since NIU is at home, I’m giving the Huskies the advantage.
OHIO - 31
NIU - 35
NIU: 4-3 (4-0 MAC)
Saturday, Oct. 27th: NIU @ BYU Cougars
In another first, the Huskies will head to Provo, Utah, to take on the BYU Cougars for the first time in program history.
Last year the Cougars struggled and finished 4-9. Unfortunately, they should be a little better this season.
In another toss-up game, the Huskies could find away to escape with a win. However, the Cougars defense really stiffened up in the last half of the season and won’t be a pushover. And, with it being in Utah, BYU has the advantage.
NIU - 31
BYU - 34
NIU: 4-4 (4-0 MAC)
Thursday, Nov. 1st: NIU @ Akron Zips
The Huskies get no rest after a trip to Utah as, just five days later, they head to Ohio to take on Akron where the Huskies’ put their four game winning streak against the Zips on the line.
Akron will be a solid team this year but won’t make it back to the MAC Championship Game again as they’ll probably slip back into their old ways.
If NIU had more rest and wasn’t so traveled-out I’d say they win easily. But because of the short week and lack of rest this game will be closer than it should be. I still think NIU squeaks it out though.
NIU - 38
AKRON - 35
NIU: 5-4 (5-0 MAC)
Wednesday, Nov. 7th: Toledo Rockets vs. NIU
The Huskies finally head home after a three week absence to take on their rival Toledo.
The Rockets are the other team primed to win the MAC West (again) and will head to DeKalb hungry.
In another toss-up game, this could go either way. However, and it kills me to say this, but the Rockets will end the Huskies perfect MAC record and seal the victory with a late score.
TOLEDO - 42
NIU - 31
NIU: 5-5 (5-1 MAC)
Wednesday, Nov. 14th: Miami RedHawks vs NIU
NIU’s final home game is against Miami University and should be another victory for the Huskies. The Huskies will be hungry for bowl eligibility and will look to rebound from the Toledo loss.
The RedHawks won’t be able to slow down Childers or stop Smith from wrecking havoc in the backfield.
MIAMI - 17
NIU - 42
NIU: 6-5 (6-1 MAC)
Tuesday, Nov. 20th: NIU @ Western Michigan Broncos
The final game in 2018 is in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and will have the Huskies fighting for a MAC Championship birth, but will need some help from a Toledo loss.
WMU won’t go quietly though and the Huskies will be locked in a close game. However, Childers mobility will allow for a late scramble that seals the deal for the Huskies and gives them seven wins on the year.
NIU - 31
WMU - 27
NIU: 7-5 (7-1 MAC)
Of course, a lot could change between now and December and the Huskies will need to keep Childers healthy and upright in order to keep the offense going. The line is strong enough to allow for a solid rushing attack as well but we’ll see what kind of production they get from Marcus Jones, Tre Harbison, and the others.
Only time will tell but, despite the ugly start, the Huskies should be going bowling once again in 2018.