The win-less Akron Zips (0-7, 0-3 MAC) will travel to DeKalb this Saturday to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (2-5, 1-2 MAC), who have been struggling this season as well...especially with injuries.
And it was announced on Tuesday that two more Huskie starters would be done for the season - linebacker Antonio Jones-Davis and cornerback Antwain Walker.
On top of that, Tyrice Richie and Jordan Cole are still out due to suspension and quarterback Ross Bowers is under concussion protocol and is questionable for the game.
When: Saturday, October 26th at 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Where: Huskie Stadium — DeKalb, IL
Weather: Sunny and low-to-mid 50s
Odds: NIU is a 23.5 point favorite and has a 93.3% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
The Zips and Huskies have faced off just 15 times before, with NIU holding a 10-5 lead in the series that dates back to 1966. Akron kept the series close for the first forty years, as the first ten meetings were split, 5-5.
However, since losing to Akron in the MAC Championship Game in 2005, the Huskies have tallied five straight wins against the Zips to claim a 10-5 series lead.
Largest margin of victory:
NIU: 50-14 (36 points), 2010
Akron: 34-17 (17 points), 1996
Longest win streak:
NIU: 5 games (2009-present)
Akron: 2 games (1991-1996 and 2005)
NIU - 5
Akron has struggled to get anything going this season, only averaging 12.3 points and 292 yards per game (and just 48.4 rushing yards!).
Quarterback Kato Nelson has passed for 1265 yards and eight touchdowns to just three interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 136 yards, the only Zip to reach triple-digits in rushing yardage.
When Nelson isn’t running the ball, it’s Deltron Sands and Brandon Lee that get the bulk of the carries. Sands has 91 yards and TD on his 35 rushes while Lee has 81 yards on 43 attempts.
Nate Steward is their leading receiver with 30 grabs for 433 yards and three scores. Three other Zips have 200+ receiving yards; Dustin Burkhart (320 yards, TD), Michael Mathison (238 yards), and Jeremiah Knight (215 yards).
Akron’s defense has only managed four sacks this year (they’ve given up 31!) and has just 30 tackles for loss.
John Lako has the majority of those TFLs, as he leads their defense with 82 tackles and 6.5 TFL. He also has a fumble recovery.
Defensive back Alvin Davis has 37 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and a pass break up. And, while he hasn’t had the best season stats-wise, he’s one of the best DBs in the MAC and covers receivers well.
Quarterback Ross Bowers is questionable for the game so there’s a real possibility that Marcus Childers will be in charge of the offense this Saturday. Childers is 19/31 passing and has 181 yards and a touchdown. He’s also rushed the ball 14 times for 108 yards and two more TDs.
Tre Harbison has played well the past few weeks. He’s averaging 25 carries, 114 yards, and just under two touchdowns per game since MAC play started three weeks ago. On the season he has 566 yards and five touchdowns on his 127 rushes.
There’s a new leader atop the receiving charts for NIU as Cole Tucker has had monstrous games the past two weeks. Tucker now has 408 yards and a TD on 29 catches. Tight ends Daniel Crawford and Mitchell Brinkman are right behind him, with 346 and 324 yards respectively. Spencer Tears is fourth with 279 yards and a score on his 17 snags.
The Huskies defense got hit again with the loss of ADJ. They started the season with the best linebacking crew in the MAC and one of the best in the country but, due to injuries, none of their talented LBs are playing anymore.
Safety Mykelti Williams leads the team with 52 tackles. He also has 3.5 TFL, a pass break up, and forced a fumble.
Vinny Labus has done well in place of ADJ and is now third on the team with 32 tackles to go with his 2.5 TFL, two sacks, pass break up, QB hurry, and fumble recovery.
The Huskies are somehow 23.5 point favorites...which seems a bit much since we’ve seen them struggle week after week. Add the injuries and suspensions into that and I think covering that spread is going to be a tough ask.
NIU should be able to beat the Zips, and do so (hopefully) easily but I don’t think they’ll cover the spread.
Akron Zips - 17
NIU Huskies - 31