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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Northern Illinois Huskies at Eastern Michigan Eagles

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EMU looks to get their first conference win of the year while the Huskies try to stay atop the MAC standings

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

The Eastern Michigan Eagles will play host to the Northern Illinois Huskies this weekend as both teams will look to bounce back from losses last week.

Saturday’s game will be the 49th meeting between the two schools, with NIU holding a commanding 32-14-2 lead in the series and having won the last ten meetings and 16 of the last 17.


Game Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 29th, 6 p.m. (5 p.m. CST)
Where: Rynearson Stadium — Ypsilanti, Michigan
Watch: ESPN+
Odds: EMU is favored by 3.5 and has a 64.5% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
Weather: Mostly sunny, mid-60s


The Huskies...

NIU comes into to this game needing a win. The Huskies are 1-0 in the MAC but have yet to get any real offense going in any of their match ups. They’re only averaging 14 points and 236 yards per game.

Quarterback Marcus Childers has shown flashes of brilliance but has also had moments that show his inexperience. So far this season, the sophomore has completed just 53.8% of his passes for 540 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Childers has not been nearly as effective this year with his legs, partially due to the high number of sacks recorded so far. In his 41 carries he has -9 yards but has rushed for an additional score.

Childers’ two main targets have been D.J. Brown and Jauan Wesley. Brown leads the team with 20 catches, 247 yards, and two scores. Wesley has 17 grabs for 159 yards and two scores. No other receiver has more than 55 receiving yards.

On the ground Tre Harbison and Jordan Nettles are splitting reps with Haribson carrying the rock 36 times and Nettles right on his heels with 35. However, Nettles hasn’t done nearly as much with his touches, as Harbison averages 6.5 yards per carry (for 235 yards) while Nettles is only getting 4.1 yards per carry (for 143 yards). And, shockingly, no running back has a rushing touchdown.

Defensively, Sutton Smith remains the anchor for the Huskies. He leads the team in tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (4), QB Hurries (2), and forced fumbles (2) and has 20 total tackles, which is tied for sixth on the team. Also, look for linebacker Antonio Jones-Davis to be all over the field. He tops all NIU players with 37 tackles and pass breakups with 3.


The Eagles...

EMU will be looking to get to .500 in conference play and, based on their offensive production, it looks like they could end NIU’s 10-game winning streak. The Eagles come into this game scoring just over four touchdowns per game (29.75 PPG) and amassing 433.5 yards per game.

The last few games EMU has used multiple quarterbacks - Tyler Wiegers and Mike Glass III. And both have been pretty solid for the Eagles. Wiegers is completing a whopping 75% of his passes for 697 yards and three TDs while Glass has thrown for 502 yards and five scores and connected on 58.5% of his passes. Both have thrown a single interception each. Glass, however, can also use his legs to beat you. On 31 carries he has 135 yards and three touchdowns in addition to his passing yards.

The Eagles have a trio of receivers to watch - Blake Banham, Arthur Jackson III, and Mathew Sexton. Banham leads all players with 23 grabs for 361 yards and two scores, while Jackson has 12 receptions for 248 yards and a pair of TDs. Sexton is a close third with 207 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches.

Running the ball is also a three-headed monster for EMU (if you include Glass). Shaq Vann leads the Eagles with 50 carries for 196 yards and a score. And, as I mentioned earlier, Glass has 135 yards on 31 carries but leads the team with his three rushing TDs. Ian Eriksen has 34 carries but has struggled to get much going, netting just 106 yards.

Defensively the Eagles are led upfront by lineman Maxx Crosby. Crosby might only have 13 tackles but, when he does stop a player, it’s usually in the backfield. He leads the team with five TFL, 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles.

Also look out for Kyle Rachwal. The senior has 31 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 QBH, a pick, and a forced fumble. A pair of DBs have also made a big impact for EMU. Vince Calhoun and Ikie Calderon have combined for 56 tackles (with Calhoun having 31 of those), four pass breakups, and forced and recovered a fumble.


Prediction

The Huskies haven’t been able to move the ball or score but have played some really tough opponents. The Eagles haven’t quite played the same level of opponents in their early games but have played rather well regardless.

This is a toss up. The Eagles have the better offense, the Huskies have the better defense.

However, it’s hard to bet against the Huskies in MAC games. Even though Eastern is favored by 3.5 points, the Huskies offense does just enough to slip out of Ypsilanti with the victory. It takes a late defensive stand to get the job done but...that’s just how the Huskies live these days.

NIU - 31
EMU - 27