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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Miami RedHawks at Northern Illinois Huskies

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The inaugural Mallory Cup will have some big implications...

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot at stake this Wednesday night when the Miami RedHawks travel to DeKalb to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in the inaugural Mallory Cup. If the Huskies win, they will assure themselves a spot in the MAC Championship Game and, conversely, a loss for the RedHawks will eliminate them from bowl eligibility.

Earlier this year the two schools announced that they will begin playing for a trophy called the Mallory Cup after legendary coach Bill Mallory who coached at both schools (Miami 1969-73, NIU 1980-83) and is the only head coach to win a MAC title at two different schools...he also won MAC Coach of the Year at each university as well.

These two MAC foes actually don’t play that often though as this will be just the 18th meeting between the two schools. The Huskies are clinging to a slim 9-8 series lead after having won the last two games (back in 2014 and 2015). NIU is the only team in the MAC with a winning record against Miami.


Game Info

Date/Time: Wednesday, Nov. 14th, 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST)
Where: Huskie Stadium — DeKalb, Illinois (24,000 capacity)
Watch: ESPNU
Odds: NIU is favored by 6.5 and has 69.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
Weather: Clear but in the mid-20’s by kickoff


The RedHawks...

Quick Facts:
Record: 4-6 (4-2 MAC)
Points per game: 28.2
Points allowed: 27.8
Yards per game: 374.0 (145.9 rushing, 228.1 passing)
Yards allowed: 366.5 (156.1 rushing, 210.4 passing)

Quarterback Gus Ragland heads the Miami offense. So far this season he’s connecting on 60.42% of his passes, has gained 2281 yards, and has thrown four times as many touchdowns as interceptions (16 TDs, 4 INT). He can also use his legs and athleticism to get away and extend plays - rushing for an additional 196 yards and five scores.

However, the main threats on the ground are Alonzo Smith and wide receiver Kenny Young. Smith leads the team with 499 yards and six rushing TDs on 105 carries while Young has 296 yards and four touchdowns on his 45 attempts.

Young is also one of Ragland’s two main targets through the air. He’s second on the team in receptions (41) and yardage (375) but leads all players with four receiving scores. The other wide out to keep an eye on is Jack Sorenson. Sorenson’s 43 catches and 629 yards lead the RedHawks but his two touchdowns is actually fifth on the team.

Linebacker Brad Koenig and defensive lineman Doug Costin anchor the solid Miami defense.

Koenig tops all players with 90 tackles (35 more than anyone else on the team!!) and ten TFL. He also has four sacks, four forced fumbles, three interceptions, three QB hurries, and a fumble recovery. He’s literally everywhere on defense.

Costin, though, is just as disruptive as Koenig. He has 46 tackles, 9.5 TFL, five sacks, three pass break ups, two QBH, two forced fumbles, and also has a safety, a blocked kick, and a fumble recovery.


The Huskies...

Quick Facts:
Record: 7-3 (6-0 MAC)
Points per game: 21.1
Points allowed: 21.0
Yards per game: 318.5 (180.2 rushing, 138.3 passing)
Yards allowed: 354.8 (109.6 rushing, 245.2 passing)

NIU has won six straight games for the first time since 2015 and will look to extend that streak in their final home game of the year.

The Huskies’ offense has played well the past few games, as the Huskies have scored 30+ points in consecutive games for the first time in a year. And, as usual, it’s the ground attack that’s been most successful.

NIU has a two-headed monster in Tre Harbison and Marcus Jones. Harbison is second in the MAC with 804 yards on the ground, while averaging 5.5 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns as well. Jones is netting 5.8 yards per carry and has 478 yards and three TDs on 82 carries.

Marcus Childers, the Huskie QB, is connecting on 57.4% of his throws and has passed for 1383 yards and ten touchdowns while throwing six interceptions. He too can use his legs to hurt teams and is third on the team with 328 rushing yards and leads all Huskies with five rushing touchdowns.

Like Ragland, he has two main receivers that he targets - Jauan Wesley and D.J. Brown. Wesley has 42 grabs for 473 yards and a pair of scores while Brown has 41 receptions netting him 351 yards and three touchdowns.

All season on defense we’ve talked about Antonio Jones-Davis and Sutton Smith (and for good reason).

Jones-Davis leads NIU with 88 tackles and also has nine TFL, six pass break ups, four sacks, and two fumble recoveries. Smith is seventh in the FBS with nine sacks and his 15 TFL ranks him 15th in country. He also has five QBH, four forced fumbles, and has blocked two punts (one of which he returned for a touchdown).

But, as the season has gone on, linebacker Kyle Pugh has started to make more and more of an impact. Pugh is now second in tackles, with 72, and has 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and recovered two fumbles.


Prediction

This will be a battle between two really tough defenses. NIU doesn’t give up many points and leads the FBS in sacks, averaging 3.7 per game! Miami has their two huge run stoppers as well and only allows 11 more total yards than the Huskies.

We know the Huskies offense has had their struggles this season but on senior night...at home...to clinch the MAC West...you’ve got to think the Huskies come out ready to play and claim the first ever Mallory Cup.

I’ll say it again...it’s hard to bet against the Huskies in the MAC.

Miami RedHawks - 20
NIU Huskies - 31