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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Northern Illinois Huskies at BYU Cougars

NIU heads out west in their final non-conference game

NCAA Football: Utah State at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend the Northern Illinois Huskies will take on their second opponent from the state of Utah this season when they travel to Provo for a match up against the BYU Cougars.

Both teams should be well-rested as they are coming off bye-weeks Saturday’s game will mark the first ever meeting between the two teams but BYU is scheduled to make a trip to DeKalb on October 24th, 2020.


Game Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 27th, 2:30 p.m. CST (1:30 p.m. local time)
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium (64,045 capacity) — Provo, Utah
Watch: ESPNU
Odds: BYU is favored by 7.5 and has a 69.1% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
Weather: Sunny and in the upper-60s


BYU Quick Facts

Record: 4-3
Last game: 49-23 win over Hawaii
Head Coach: Kalani Sitake (3rd season), 17-16
Offense: Multiple
Defense: Multiple
Points per game: 25.1
Yards per game: 330.0 (190.1 passing, 139.9 rushing)
Points allowed: 24.4
Yards allowed: 353.7 (204.3 passing, 149.4 rushing)


The Cougars started the season strong with a 3-1 record, including a huge win at then-ranked #6 Wisconsin, before dropping two straight games. After a quarterback change last week BYU was able to rebound and beat up on Hawaii.

BYU started the season with Tanner Mangum under center, who had decent stats - 1042 yards, five TDs, three INT, and a 61.5% completion rate - but, last week switched it up to freshman Zach Wilson.

Wilson, so far this season, has connected on 20 of his 30 passing attempts (66.7%) and netted 258 yards, four touchdowns, and thrown just a single interception.

The Cougars offense is truly a team effort. They have six receivers with more than 100 yards and nine players have a receiving touchdown. On the ground, five Cougars have rushed for 100+ yards and five had scored on the ground as well.

Their aerial assault is led by Aleva Hifo, who has 21 receptions, 225 yards, and a touchdown. He’s also a threat on jet sweeps and has 19 rushes for 100 yards. Matt Bushman is nipping at Hifo’s heels, with a touchdown and 207 yards on 12 grabs. Talon Shumway is third and has 170 yards and a TD on ten catches.

Squally Canada is BYU’s main rusher. The senior didn’t see action last week after an undisclosed injury kept him out but he is expected to return this week. So far this year he has amassed 334 yards and five scores on 71 carries. Lopini Katoa is a very solid number-two though and has 263 yards on 55 carries and added four touchdowns as well.

NIU can expect to see Matt Hadley and/or Riley Burt as well, as the Cougars played both of them heavily last week. They’ve combined for 216 yards on 35 carries.

Defensively, they are lead by Corbin Kaufusi. The huge, 6’9 defensive lineman has 34 tackles and a team-high seven TFL and six sacks. He’s also blocked a kick this year, making him their version of Sutton Smith.

But it is linebacker Sione Takitaki that leads the team in tackles. He has 46 tackles and has three TFL, three pass breakups, and three QB Hurries.

In the secondary, Austin Lee and Chris Wilcox are solid defensive backs. The duo have 27 and 25 tackles and have combined for two pass breakups, an interception. and forced a fumble.


Prediction

The Huskies, once again, will have their hands full as this BYU team is no slouch and has a ton of depth at every position it seems.

NIU’s offense will have their hands full getting through the Cougar defense, and this BYU team has played some really tough teams (Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona, California...) so they’re probably better than their 4-3 record indicates.

Sutton Smith and company will have their hands full against this deep Cougar offense. However, the Huskie defense has been in these situations before and played well against teams of this caliber.

So, if the Huskies want to pull off the upset, it will take a big day from Marcus Childers and Tre Harbison.

Like their other non-conference games, I think the Huskies can keep it close but a lack of offense ends up dooming NIU late.

NIU Huskies - 17
BYU Cougars - 27