The Northern Illinois Huskies will travel to The Factory in Ypsilanti to face the Eastern Michigan Eagles for a key game for both squads. It’s an odd place for both teams to be in; EMU at 6-4 is looking to solidify their bowl-eligible record with more wins while NIU at 3-7 has to win out to hope a bowl opens up for them via APR.
Normally, the situation would reversed with the Huskies being a little better coming into this game, but 2016 hasn’t been a normal year, has it?
If you count only the MAC records, these teams are equal. That being said, going by records can be dangerous, especially in the conference season.
When the Huskies have the ball:
The Huskies offense will be led by quarterback Ryan Graham who is 65 for 117 with 622 yards for the season. The electric Anthony Maddie, who converted from WR to QB earlier in the season, is out for the rest of the year due to a hairline fracture in his foot. Graham is a serviceable quarterback that has been on the field in key situations for the Huskies recently, but has thrown six picks in relief of both Hare and Maddie, which shows a tendency for questionable decision-making.
Kenny Golladay is the leading receiver for NIU, averaging almost 103 yards per game. The running attack is led by Joel Bouagnon, who averages 73 yards per game. Overall the Huskies average 30.4 points per game.
They have pretty good ball security on the ground with only two fumbles lost this year. Their line seems to be pretty good at protecting their quarterback, as they’ve averaged less than one sack per game.
I keep saying this for every preview so far because I like writing this. The Huskies are facing a vastly improved Eagle rushing defense that has only allowed an average of 152 yards per game. They have also forced 21 turnovers (8 interceptions and 13 fumbles) this season. The leading tacklers are Jason Beck and Kyle Rachwal. Pat O’Connor accounts for seven out of 19 total sacks.
When the Eagles have the ball:
Brogan Roback has clearly earned the reins of the Eastern Michigan offense. Roback ended up earning MAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors after last week’s wacky game against Ball State, where he attempted 71 passes, collected 468 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. So far, Roback has been 150-of-251 passing with an average of 265 yards per game.
An Eastern Michigan receiver of note for the past couple of games has been Aristilde Dieuly who has averaged a little over 100 yards per game. The rushing attack is still led by Ian Eriksen with a little over 63 yards per game. Once again, in order for Eastern Michigan to have a chance, they have to get that rushing game going.
The Eagles are facing a defense that has allowed 193 yards per game on the ground and 262 yards per game in the air. Based on both of those numbers, Eastern Michigan should not have too much trouble moving the ball.
I realize that when I say that, I may be jinxing things for the Eagles. The leading Huskie tackler is Sean Folliard with 7.5 tackles per game. Sacks seem to be pretty evenly distributed through the defense.
What does all this mean?
Given that both teams are pretty evenly matched on overall stats, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this game will probably be decided by the turnover battle. Eastern Michigan has been pretty good at forcing turnovers this year and Northern Illinois hasn’t. Based on that, I’m going to predict that Eastern Michigan will win a hard fought battle on Wednesday.
How to watch:
This game will be shown on ESPNU, consult your local cable guide for the channel. If you prefer the radio, you can always listen to it on WEMU at 89.1 on your dial or wemu.org if you prefer streaming.
If you really want a good time, you could always head down to Rynearson Stadium and watch it there. Tickets are still available. The weather is supposed to be partly cloudy with a high of 55 and a low of 38, per reports.