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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Northern Illinois Huskies at Florida State Seminoles

Who will come out on top in this rematch of the 2013 Orange Bowl?

Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State

After holding off CMU for their first win of the season, the Northern Illinois Huskies will now head south to Tallahassee, Florida to take on the Florida State Seminoles. This will be the second ever meeting between the two schools, with the first being a few years ago and perhaps you watched it...after all, it was the 2013 Orange Bowl. Florida State won the game 31-10 but it was a one possession game heading into the fourth quarter.

Can the Huskies fare better in the rematch?

Game Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m. (2:30 CST)
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium — Tallahassee, Florida (79,560 capacity)
Watch: ESPNU
Odds: FSU is a 10-point favorite and has a 79.9% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI predictor.

Florida State Facts

Record: 1-2
Last game: 30-7 loss to Syracuse
Head Coach: Willie Taggart (1st year at FSU), 47-50
Offense: Gulf Coast style
Defense: Multiple

The Offense

Florida State, much like NIU, has struggled to get anything going on offense for most of the season...especially on the ground. They’re averaging 340.3 yards per game (243.7 passing, 96.7 rushing) and just over 15 points per game.

Their quarterback, junior Deondre Francois, has made some mistakes, throwing four interceptions so far to just three touchdowns. But he has connected on 60.7% of his passes and thrown for 731 yards so far, so he can move the ball down the field well against teams. He will scramble and take off occasionally, but so far he has not been a huge threat on the ground - running the ball 21 times (10 of which were sacks) for -16 yards.

And he’s had success finding multiple receivers. Four Seminoles have 10+ receptions with Nyqwan Murray leading them all. Murray has 14 catches for 146 yards while Keith Gavin is close behind with 13 grabs for 144 yards. In the red zone though, look for the 6-4 freshman receiver, Tamorrion Terry, who has two of Francois’ three touchdown passes.

On the ground they are led by sophomore Cam Akers who has netted 210 yards on 38 rushes but will also use senior half back Jacques Patrick, who has 24 carries for 97 yards. Just like NIU, no running back has scored a rushing touchdown for the Seminoles. However, Francois does have two TD runs on quarterback scrambles.

Their offensive line has been surprisingly porous so far this season, giving up 27 tackles in the backfield, 10 sacks, eight QB Hurries, and a blocked punt (something the Huskies have done very well this season).

Finally, if you though NIU’s kicking has been bad this season, Florida State fans know exactly how you feel. Their kicker, Ricky Aguayo, has only made one of his four attempts and hasn’t hit anything from farther than 22 yards.

The Defense

FSU’s defense has given up quite a few yards and points so far this season. Teams are averaging 428.3 yards against this Seminole defense ( 128 rushing, 300.3 passing) and scoring around 27 points per game.

The biggest threat the Huskies will see this week is defensive end Brian Burns. Burns, like NIU’s Sutton Smith, might not have a huge number of tackles but, when he gets one, it’s usually in the backfield. Burns, so far, has 11 tackles, five TFL, and 3.5 sacks.

The linebacking core is lead by Dontavious Jackson, who has 18, two of which were for a loss, and a couple of pass breakups.

But it’s the secondary that leads the way in making stops. Of the seven Seminoles that have 12+ tackles, SIX of them are defensive backs.

Leading the Seminoles in tackles is DB Hamsah Nasirildeen who has amassed 28 tackles - ten more than any other player. But it’s really Kyle Meyers that NIU fans need to keep an eye on in the secondary. Meyers has 12 tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble.


On paper Florida State should be able to handle the Huskies. But, on paper, the Seminoles should have beaten Syracuse and handled Samford by more than just ten.

The Huskies might have a chance here if the Seminoles play like they did against of those teams...and if Marcus Childers and the Huskie offense can find any sort of rhythm.

However, FSU’s weakness has been their pass defense so NIU will need to throw the ball better if they want to move down the field. The Huskies can’t sit back and attempt run after run and expect to win.

The Seminole O-line has played surprisingly poor so far this seasons and that could lead to a big day from Sutton Smith and company if they’re not careful. Francois has shown that he is prone to making mistakes, especially when pressured, and if NIU can keep him under wraps, maybe...just maybe, NIU can sneak out of Doak with the win.


NIU - 17
FSU - 31