#65 Northern Illinois Football 2015 Preview

Northern Illinois Huskies

Overall Rank: #65
#2 Mid-American

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Northern Illinois could have taken a step back last year without Heisman worthy quarterback Jordan Lynch on the team. But once again the Huskies proved that they are more than a single player. A week two win over Northwestern propelled NIU to a great season. November wins over Toledo and Western Michigan gave NIU another chance to win a MAC title. And they did so quite easily against Bowling Green in a 51-17 rout. However, a bad showing in the Boca Raton Bowl against Marshall has left some lingering questions.

2014 Record: 11-3, 7-1
2014 Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl vs. Marshall (L 23-52)
Coach: Rod Carey (23-6 at Northern Illinois, 23-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bob Cole
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Niemann

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Drew Hare, QB, 900 yards
Passing: Drew Hare, QB, 2,322 yards
Receiving: Jawan Brescacin, WR, 445 yards
Tackles: Marlon Moore, S, 99
Sacks: Perez Ford, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Paris Logan, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Joel Bouagnon, WR Aregeros Turner, C Andrew Ness, K Christian Hagan, LB Rasheen Lemon, LB Boomer Mays, LB Sean Folliard

Key Losses: RB Cameron Stingily, WR Da’Ron Brown, DL Jason Meehan, DB Dechane Durante

Through a variety of coaches and variations on the schemes, Northern Illinois has remained an offensive powerhouse. Drew Hare earned the starting job early last season and ended up throwing for 2,322 yards and 18 touchdowns. That may not sound all that impressive, but his 59.5 completion percentage and two interceptions put it all into perspective. He is efficient and ready to take the next step. It has been said that Hare is not as strong of a rusher as NIU quarterbacks of the past, and that may be true, but he still rushed for 900 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Hare will also have plenty of passing options with so many playmakers at wide receiver. Tommylee Lewis returns after missing nearly all of the 2014 campaign. The previous year he caught 86 passes for 715 yards and three touchdowns. Juwan Brescacin is a big play threat and Aregeros Turner gained some valuable experience last year. Expect Northern Illinois to look to the air a little more often this year with Cameron Stingily gone. There are a stable of running backs available and NIU will hope one of them can take the reins and keep the ground game among the most efficient and productive in the MAC.

Eight starters are back on a defense that ranked fifth in the MAC and 51st in the FBS in scoring defense. However, there were some bad outings, most notably allowing 52 points to both Arkansas (before they were good) and Marshall. What the defense does particularly well is get to the quarterback and create turnovers. Defensive end Jason Meehan is gone, but Perez Ford, Ben Compton and Sean Folliard are all capable of getting to the quarterback. Linebackers Rasheen Lemon and Boomer Mays return to help the run defense, but this is not the strongest front seven in the conference. The secondary should be the strength of the defense with safety Marlon Moore and cornerback Paris Logan leading the way.

The Bottom Line:
Northern Illinois will certainly be in the mix for another MAC West title, but the west is very tough this year. Toledo and Western Michigan figure to be right with NIU atop the standings. And the only MAC team to beat Northern Illinois last year was Central Michigan. This year NIU has to travel to Mt. Pleasant for their MAC opener. And that comes right after road trips to Ohio State and Boston College. The road is tough, but Northern Illinois rarely fails to live up to their lofty expectations.

Projected Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 249.1 (16th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 192.1 (97, 12)
Total Offense: 441.2 (36, 2)
Scoring Offense: 31.5 (47, 4)
Rushing Defense: 163.1 (58, 6)
Pass Defense: 228.5 (63, 5)
Total Defense: 391.6 (57, 4)
Scoring Defense: 25.6 (51, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.86 (9, 1)
Sacks: 2.29 (50, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.00 (8, 1)


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