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What You Need to Know About the 2018 Northern Illinois Football Team

Where will the Huskies’ stout defense take them in 2018?

Duke v Northern Illinois Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Northern Illinois Huskies used their dominating defense to bounce back last year, finishing the year 8-5 (6-2 MAC) and participating in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit. But what should you know about the 2018 Huskies?’s a handy guide.

2017 Record/Stats

  • 8-5 (6-2 MAC)
  • Bowl Game: Quick Lane Bowl (Lost 36-14 to the Duke Blue Devils)
  • Offensive stats: 28.9 points per game, 377.8 yards per game (199.9 passing, 177.9 rushing)
  • Defensive stats: 22 points per game, 338.5 yards per game (218.5 passing, 120 rushing)

Stadium: Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
  • Built: 1965. Expanded in 1982, 1995, and 2016
  • Capacity: 24,000
  • Surface: artificial FieldTurf
  • Other: Huskie Stadium has hosted the Illinois High School Football Playoffs on odd years since 2013 and will do so next year as well.

2018 Schedule

2018 NIU Huskies Schedule

Date Opponent Time (CST) Network
Date Opponent Time (CST) Network
9/1 @ Iowa Hawkeyes 2:30 B1G Network
9/8 Utah Utes 6:30 ESPN News
9/15 CMU Chippewas 2:30 EPSN+
9/22 @ Florida State Seminoles TBD TBD
9/29 @ EMU Eagles 5:00 ESPN+
10/6 @ Ball State Cardinals TBD TBD
10/13 Ohio Bobcats 2:30 TBD
10/27 @ BYU Cougars TBD TBD
11/1 @ Akron Zips 6:00 TBD
11/7 Toledo Rockets TBD TBD
11/14 Miami RedHawks TBD TBD
11/20 @ WMU Broncos 6:00 TBD


Head Coach: Rod Carey (6th Season)

MAC Championship - Northern Illinois v Bowling Green Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
  • Record: 44-24 (32-8 MAC)
  • Three MAC West titles (2013-2015), One MAC Championship (2014)
  • Alma Mater: Indiana

Coordinators: Jeff Knowles (Defense/LB Coach) & Mike Uremovich (Offense/Asst. Head Coach/TE & FB Coach)

Knowles, who takes over for Kevin Kane (now at SMU) at defensive coordinator, is now in his second season with NIU. Last season he was the Huskies’ linebackers coach and before that he was at NC State from 2014-16 as a Defensive Quality Control coach.

Uremovich was the running backs coach at NIU in 2012 before following Dave Doeren to NC State where he served as offensive line coach from 2013-2015. In 2016, Uremovich made his way back to DeKalb where he has been assistant head coach and offensive coordinator ever since.

Key Players

Sutton Smith, DE, Junior

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Smith, a 6-1 defensive end, had one hell of a season last year - leading the nation in tackles for loss and sacks. In 2017 he amassed 63 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, eight QB hurries, and forced and recovered three fumbles. This year he’s added 20 pounds of muscle and will most likely continue to wreak havoc in the MAC.

Max Scharping, OT, Senior

Scharping is one of the best offensive tackles in the FBS. In 425 snaps last season he allowed just five quarterback pressures and had the highest pass-blocking efficiency (99.2) in the’s no wonder he’s sitting on multiple award watch lists and just clocked in at #4 on our list of the top-25 players in the MAC.

Marcus Childers, QB, Sophomore

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Duke vs Northern Illinois Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The offense rises and falls with Childers, who leads the Huskies offense. Last season he won Freshman of the Year in the MAC by completing 57% of his passes and throwing for 1674 yards, 16 TDs, and just five interceptions. He can also make plays happen with his legs, as he ran for an additional 473 yards and five scores.

Huskies in the NFL/CFL



  • Ken Bishop, DL, Toronto Argonauts
  • Juwan Brescacin, WR, Calgary Stampeders
  • Courtney Stephen, DB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Season Outlook

The Huskies have a hellish non-conference schedule that will be tough to navigate through. The away games at Iowa, Florida State, and BYU are not ideal. However, with the Iowa Hawkeyes suspending four players for the season opener, BYU struggling last year, and Utah having to travel to DeKalb...who knows what NIU could pull off.

The defense lost their top three tacklers (all linebackers) but get Kyle Pugh back and reigning superstar Sutton Smith looks like he could do be even bigger things this season.

Offensively there shouldn’t be any doubt about who’s quarterbacking NIU...but Childers will need to stay healthy and will be called on to do more this season, as the Huskies’ rushing attack is still unproven after Jordan Huff graduated and left a large vacancy.

The Huskies have a very manageable MAC schedule and, even though they have to play the Ohio Bobcats and Toledo Rockets (the two other contenders for the MAC Championship), both games are at Huskie Stadium and that’s a huge advantage.

I wouldn’t expect much from their non-conference schedule but a 6-2 or 7-1 MAC record seems very doable. NIU should have a solid 7- or 8-win season and be able to get back to a bowl game.