The Northern Illinois Huskies will start life after Jordan Lynch in just a few long hours. And they'll do it against an unfamiliar foe. The Presbyterian Blue Hose, out of the Big South Conference, will make its first ever trip up to DeKalb. The Huskies, who have the longest home winning streak in the NCAA, will look to extend it to 27 games.
A little while ago we released our way too early preview of this game and since then there have been some changes.
First off, we now know Cameron Stingily will not be playing for the Huskies. The senior power-running back will miss the first four games due to an unnamed injury. That means the speedy Akeem Daniels, the other senior back on NIU's roster, will have to anchor the rushing attack that will also feature Keith Harris Jr., Draco Smith, and Joel Bouagnon in a supporting roles.
When writing the way-too-early preview, I didn't know the offensive scheme of Presbyterian. Since that time, I found that, offensively, the Blue Hose run a spread attack - which could hurt NIU's inexperienced cornerbacks. The Blue Hose return their two leading receivers, Tobi Antigha and Jeremiah McKie, both who could make life real tough for NIU - especially Antigha, a huge 6'4 wide receiver. Last season, as juniors, the duo racked up 1,251 yards and eight touchdowns on 92 receptions.
Presbyterian ran the ball decently last season, netting 147.8 yards per game. Demarcus Rouse, who had 514 yards and 7 scores, will handle most carries for the Blue Hose. Rouse, at 225 pounds, is a power back and will be tough for the new, and undersized, Huskie line to bring down. But this should help NIU in the long run. With all four D-line starters from last season gone, it will be a good way to test this new defense front for the Huskies and get them prepared for Northwestern and Arkansas.
One thing that has not changed since the first preview is the NIU quarterback debate. As of Aug. 24th, head coach Rod Carey is still not sure which of the three candidates will start. Matt McIntosh, Drew Hare, and Anthony Maddie have been in a tight race throughout the spring and fall camps and we may not even know who is starting until the team takes the field.
Bob Cole, the Huskies' offensive coordinator, thinks three is a lucky number, saying in a press release, "this is the first time in my time as a coach [37 years] that we’ve had three legitimate, good quarterbacks. Usually you have one really good quarterback or two good ones but right now we have three. Coach Carey and I will make a decision soon but it’s a good problem to have." He also said that all three might end up seeing playing time this season.
Fortunately, besides the question mark at QB and Stingily, the rest of the Huskies offense returns. Take the speed NIU has on the outside with Tommylee Lewis and Da'Ron Brown, combine that with the depth the Huskies have at running back, and that should mean big points against a defense that gave up 227 rushing yards, 199 passing yards, and 32.5 points per game last season. They should have no problem getting to the endzone.
Original prediction: a 38-14 Huskies win.