Thee Northern Illinois Huskies can't get enough of the Beehive State. After announcing a future home-and-home series with BYU on Day 2 of "Schedule Palooza" to begin in 2018, and on Day 3 the Huskies announced a series with the Utah Utes to begin in the same year. That's a whole lot of Utah for a team that ended its 2013 season with a bowl game loss to Utah State.
"This series with the University of Utah is a big step forward in our future scheduling," NIU athletic director Sean T. Frazier said in a release Thursday afternoon.otbl/spec-rel/073114aaa.html "We are bringing a Pac-12 opponent to our house for the first time, and will meet our goals of facing teams from the Power 5 conferences every year. This series will positively affect our program in many, many ways."
The series is a huge addition to NIU's future nonconference schedule. Utah joined the then Pac-10 in 2011 following a successful run in the Mountain West Connection that saw the Utes reach BCS bowls in 2004 and 2008. Utah has averaged just under nine wins a seasons since Urban Meyer's first year in Salt Lake City in 2003. Even after he left following an undefeated 2004 season Utah has maintained momentum, with a slight step back since joining the Pac-12, finishing 5-7 in both 2012 and 2013.
Utah is a big name, and when it travels to Huskie Stadium in 2018 it will mark the first time a Pac-12 team has played in DeKalb. The Huskies return to Salt Lake City in 2019 to conclude the home-and-home series.
Yesterday NIU announced a home-and-home series with BYU that has the Huskies going to Provo, Utah in 2018, and the Cougars coming to DeKalb in 2020. On Tuesday NIU kicked off its "Schedule Palooza" with a home-and-home series with SDSU that has the Aztecs coming to Huskie Stadium in 2016, with NIU heading out west in 2017.
It's all a part of a push from NIU's athletic department to increase the Huskies' strength of schedule and starting bringing competitive teams into DeKalb on a more regular basis. Northern Illinois currently holds a 26-game winning streak at Huskie Stadium, which is one of many reasons why the athletic department has struggled to get these types of home-and-home series in the past.
So Huskie fans, how do you feel about Utah coming to town?