The Northern Illinois Huskies will host the Central Michigan Chippewas on Wednesday night in each team’s return to Midweek #MACtion. Each team should be nice and rested, last playing ten days ago on October 22nd.
The season hasn’t gone as either team had planned, with both squads entering the game at 2-6 overall and just 1-3 in conference play. However, if either of these teams can win out, they will be bowl eligible so this is a big game to keep one of these school’s post season hopes alive.
When: Wednesday, November 2nd at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. CST)
Where: Huskie Stadium - DeKalb, IL
Weather: Clear, Mid 60s, some wind
Odds: NIU is favored by 4 points and has a 60.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI. The over/under is 55.5.
These two teams have a very long history. The Chippewas have been NIU most played FBS opponent, while the Huskies are CMU’s third most common opponent (only meeting WMU and EMU more times).
The series has been rather streaky, with the teams trading big runs back and forth.
The Chips controlled the series early on, winning 11 of the first 14 games. But after an 11-2-1 start for CMU, the Huskies were able to take six of the next seven games and get the series to 12-8-1.
Central would counter with a 9-3 record from 1975-1997 before the Huskies would rattle off nine straight wins from 1998-2006 and close the gap considerably, bringing CMU’s series lead to just one game - 21-20-1. That would be the closest the Huskies came to tying up the series, as NIU would drop the next three games.
Since 2007, CMU has gone 10-5 against the Huskies and built their series lead back up to six games.
NIU was able to steal last year’s contest from the Chips after CMU botched the snap on a last second game-winning field goal attempt, winning 39-38.
Points Allowed: 29.9
Yards Allowed: 368.6
Central was supposed to have one of the most dangerous ground attacks in the MAC this season with Lew Nichols III leading the charge in their backfield. However, CMU is netting just 132.1 rushing yards per game (8th best in the MAC) and Nichols III has only surpassed the 100-yard mark once this season.
Nichols III, who has missed the last two games with an injury, should be back this week although there has been no official word as of yet. He does have six rushing scores but he’s only averaging 3.6 yards per carry and his 469 yards ranks twelfth in the conference.
Marion Lukes has been starting the past few games and did well against Akron, rushing for 160 yards and two scores on 26 carries but didn’t get too many reps last game, rushing just seven times for 16 yards. On the season he has 275 yards and three TDs on 47 rushes.
In their last game, against Bowling Green, there was a big change as Jase Bauer replaced Daniel Richardson.
Bauer is more of a dual threat player, as he ran the ball 16 times for 109 yards against the Falcons, leading the team in carries and yards on the ground. Through the air Bauer is hitting 66.7% of his throws (22/33) and has 269 yards, one touchdown, one pick, and been sacked four times.
Richardson is connecting on just 56.4% of his throws but has 1743 yards and 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions. However, he has been sacked 18 times this season.
Whoever starts under center will be looking at wide receiver Carlos Carriere and tight end Joe Wilson. Those two players account for nearly half of all passing yards, touchdowns, and receptions. Carriere has 448 yards and two scores on his 39 grabs, while Wilson has 41 catches for 412 yards and five TDs. The next highest receiver - Jalen McGaughy - has just 14 receptions and 216 yards.
CMU has also had issues kicking field goals this season, with their two kickers going a combined 4/11 on field goal attempts and 16/19 on extra points. Their 36.4% success rate on field goals is ranked 130th out of 131 teams in the FBS and their 84.2% on extra points is dead last in the NCAA. Marshall Meeder is just three of eight on his kicks and has missed both kicks under 40 yards. Josh Rolston hasn’t done much better, going just one for three, and missing his lone attempt from under 40 yards.
On defense they have a beast up front in Thomas Incoom. Incoom is tied for second in the NCAA with 7.5 sacks, while his 12.5 tackles for loss ranks tied for fifth in the FBS. Overall he has 30 tackles and has recovered two fumbles.
Linebackers Kyle Moretti and Justin Whiteside have also been bright spots on defense. Moretti leads the team with 56 total tackles and also has 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks,
two pass break ups, and a quarterback hurry. Whiteside is second on the team with 46 tackles and has added 6.5 TFL and has assited on a sack.
Watch out for Donte Kent in their secondary. The DB has a team-high ten pass break ups and is fifth on the team with 33 tackles. He also has a sack, a TFL, and forced a fumble.
Points Allowed: 33.0
Yards Allowed: 389.1
For the first time since 2017, the Huskies are out-gaining their opponents on offense, gaining 398 yards per game to their opponents 389. However, that hasn’t turned into success, as NIU has lost six of their last seven games.
As it has been for the past month or so, we’re still not sure who we’ll be seeing under center for the Huskies. We know it won’t be Ethan Hampton, as he is out for the year with a broken wrist. There is a chance we could see starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi return but, if not, it will be sophomore Justin Lynch.
Lombardi, who missed three games, returned a few weeks ago to play against EMU but then once again didn’t play in their latest game against Ohio, some ten days ago. He has been their most consistent and strongest quarterback, completing 66.7% of his throws for 645 yards and five touchdowns with just one interceptions and two sacks.
Justin Lynch, like Bauer, is more of the dual-threat quarterback. Lynch has only attempted 19 passes, completing ten of them, for 118 yards with no scores, turnovers, or sacks. On the ground he is third on the team with 170 yards and two scores on 45 carries.
Ahead of Lynch on the ground is the two-headed monster of Harrison Waylee and Antario Brown. Waylee is third in the MAC (and 28th in the NCAA), with 727 rushing yards, while Brown’s 575 yards ranks fifth in the conference. They’re each averaging over 5.6 yards per carry and have tallied a combined 11 touchdowns. It’s why their rushing attack ranks 22nd in the NCAA and second in the MAC, with over 200 yards per game.
Cole Tucker and Kacper Rutkiewicz have been the go-to threats in the air for the Huskies. Tucker leads NIU, hauling in 37 passes for 560 yards (7th in the MAC) and three TDs while Rutkiewicz has 20 catches for 325 yards and a team-leading five scores. Shemar Thornton, who recently returned from an injury, has 17 grabs for 187.
Defensively, the Huskies continue to be led by linebacker Daveren Rayner. Rayner has 71 total tackles, 18 more than the next closest Huskie, and has added 5.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, and four QBH.
Up front Michael Kennedy is tied with Rayner for the top spot in TFLs, with 5.5, but he leads the team in sacks (4.5) and has tallied 24 total stops and three QBH.
In the secondary, C.J. Brown has continued to shine. His 53 tackles ranks second on the team and he has added three PBU, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
If Lombardi comes back, this game will almost certainly go to NIU. However, if Lynch is starting, this might be a very close game.
For CMU, Richardson’s arm might be beneficial to have here, as the Huskie defense gives up a ton of yardage through the air but not on the ground. Bauer might be able to move the sticks with his legs as well, if it’s done on a scramble rather than a designed run.
However, the Huskies strong rushing attack should be enough to keep Bauer and Co. on the sidelines enough to outlast the Chippewas once again. Plus, playing at home always helps.
It’ll most likely be a close game and I think the Huskies will do just enough to keep their hopes of six wins alive.
CMU Chippewas - 28
NIU Huskies - 31