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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Central Michigan Chippewas at Northern Illinois Huskies

The Chips and Huskies open up MAC play this weekend and one of these teams will notch their first win of 2018.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Central Michigan Chippewas (0-2) head to DeKalb, Illinois to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (0-2) this Saturday in both teams’ MAC opener. Both schools are coming into this contest having lost to P5 competition; CMU falling to Kentucky and Kansas and NIU losing to Iowa and Utah.

This will be the 54th meeting between the two schools with the Chippewas holding a 29-23-1 lead in the series, including winning the the four games over the Huskies.


Game Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 15th, 3:30 p.m. (2:30 CST)
Where: Huskie Stadium — DeKalb, IL
Watch: ESPN+
Weather: Sunny, low-to-mid 80s


CMU:

Like the Huskies, Central has struggled to score points in their first few games, netting just 27 total points (which is still twice as much as NIU has scored).

They are anchored by sophomore quarterback Tony Poljan who has completed nearly 60% of his passes this season (35-59) for 314 yards and a touchdown. However, he has made quite a few mistakes, throwing four interceptions so far.

Poljan is also their leading rusher, with 26 carries for 90 yards. But Jonathan Ward and Kumehnnu Gwilly are both sitting close behind with 21 and 18 carries for 65 and 57 yards respectively. Gwilly has their only rushing touchdown so far this season.

When Poljan passes the ball, he’ll be looking towards Cameron Cole or Brandon Childress. Cole, a junior receiver, has 91 yards on seven catches while Childress has six grabs for 58 yards.

On the other side of the ball defensive back Devonni Reed has had a very solid start to the year, making 23 tackles so far and recovering a fumble. Linebacker Malik Fountain has 17 stops, two QB Hurries, and a pass breakup...so look for him to both attack the run and protect against the pass.

NIU:

The Huskies have struggled to move the ball all year long, averaging just 219 yards per game so far and scoring just one touchdown.

Marcus Childers, the Huskie QB, has really struggled to get anything going. He’s connected on 55.2% of his passes for 216 yards and a TD and two INTs. Running the ball, he has -21 yards on 22 attempts (yes sacks are included but it’s still a big change from last year’s performance).

On the ground Tre Harbison and Jordan Nettles have gotten the bulk of the carries with Harbison going for 104 yards on 19 carries and Nettles netting 103 on 22 touches.

Receivers Jauan Wesley and D.J. Brown lead the way for the Huskies with Wesley having 12 catches for 116 yards the only Huskie TD while Brown has nine grabs for 61 yards.

Defensively, Sutton Smith still is a force on the outside edge as he already has 13 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble this season. Also look for linebacker Kyle Pugh and safety Mykelti Williams to make plays as the duo has each recorded 15+ tackles and have a TFL.


Prediction

CMU has been the Huskies’ kryptonite the past 11 years, with the Chips having an 8-3 record against NIU since 2007. However, both teams have struggled to get anything going this year offensively so this game should come down to who has the better defense...and that is the Huskies.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a low-scoring battle or a shootout where both offenses finally find their rhythm but, in the end, the Huskie defense is just a bit better than CMU’s so NIU pulls it out at the end.

CMU - 24
NIU - 31