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Five Things Learned: NIU Huskies at Akron Zips

Our takeaways from the 36-26 NIU win.

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

The Northern Illinois Huskies outlasted the Akron Zips, 36-26, on Thursday night to stay perfect in MAC play and get that all important sixth win. But what did we learn from NIU’s victory?

1. The Huskies run defense is insane.

Akron ran the ball 28 times…they gained 35 yards. That’s just 1.3 yards per carry. For the fifth time this season, and for the third straight game, NIU has held their opponent under 100 yards rushing (Utah, EMU, Ohio, BYU, Akron).

And it’s only gotten better as the season has gone on. The last three contests the Huskies have allowed an average gain of just 1.4, 2.5, and 1.3 per rush respectively.

If the Huskies can continue that through the final three weeks they should be a shoe in for a trip to Detroit.

2. Kato Nelson’s absence could really hurt Akron moving forward.

Nelson had done well to keep Akron hanging around with the Huskies but, when a lineman rolled up on his leg late in the third quarter, the QB was done for the game…and possibly longer.

His replacement, Alex Ramart, started off alright, scoring a TD and getting Akron to within three points in his two plays. But two huge turnovers in the fourth quarter, including a pick-six that bumped the NIU lead to 10, would doom the Zips.

If Nelson misses the rest of the year, Akron could be out of bowl contention.

3. Marcus Childers might have played his best game yet

Childers ended the day 21-28 with 188 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers don’t jump out at you, this is an offense that has really struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the passing game. So, to see Childers connect on 75% of his passes, is really a good sign moving forward for Huskie fans. Especially because his receivers have been dropping so many passes lately.

4. The Huskies will get a bowl game

NIU is now the fourth MAC squad to become bowl eligible, joining Buffalo, Ohio, and Western Michigan. With the victory over Akron, the Huskies are a perfect 5-0 in conference games (joining Buffalo as the lone unbeatens in the MAC) and should have just secured themselves a bowl game.

Sure, there are still three games left but it certainly looks like NIU will get to the post-season again this year…if not to the MAC Championship; which brings me to my next point…

5. NIU is in the driver’s seat for the MAC Championship Game, while Akron is now out.

Akron has officially been eliminated from the MAC title game as they fell to 2-3 in conference games. Even if Buffalo lost their remaining games, and the Zips won theirs, the Bulls hold the tie-breaker over the Zips with their 24-6 win back on October 13th. However, they still have a chance at a bowl game if they can win two of their last three meetings (EMU, BGSU, Ohio).

The Huskies, however, sit atop the MAC West with a two-game cushion and just three games remaining…but, while probable, the Huskies have not won the West just yet.

Toledo and WMU both still have a chance to sneak past the Huskies and into Detroit but it will take a lot for that to happen. If NIU can win against either the Rockets or Broncos they will almost be assured a spot in the MAC title game…but a loss to one, or both, of those teams certainly opens the door to other possibilities.

NIU holds their future in their own hands…and next Wednesday’s game against Toledo will go a long way to seeing in the Huskies will make it to Detroit.