#58 Northern Illinois Football 2014 Preview

Northern Illinois Huskies

Overall Rank: #58
#1 MAC

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Look at the schools in Illinois, and Northern Illinois has been the most successful of any program in recent years.  Case in point: two MAC championships, four MAC West titles, and six straight bowl bids over the last ten years.  That is quite a run.  In fact, they have enjoyed so much success that bigger programs have come into try and poach their head coaches away.  NC State came in a plucked Dave Doeren after he guided the Huskies to their first ever Orange Bowl.  Enter Rod Carey, former NIU offensive coordinator.  He has picked up right where Doeren left off.  Undefeated in the MAC in his first season, his big challenge is to replace quarterback Jordan Lynch, a Heisman finalist last season.

2013 Record: (12-2, 8-0)
2013 Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl (L 21-14)
Coach: Rod Carey (12-3 at Northern Illinois, 12-3 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bob Cole
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Niemann

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Cameron Stingily, RB, 1,119 yards
Passing: Drew Hare, QB, 153 yards
Receiving: Tommylee Lewis, WR, 715 yards
Tackles: Jamaal Bass, LB, 88
Sacks: Jason Meehan, DE, 6.5
Interceptions: Dechane Durante, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Da’Ron Brown, LB Boomer Mays

Key Losses: QB Jordan Lynch, S Jimmie Ward

Northern Illinois was good at just about everything last season as evidenced by their record.  Offensively, they outranked just about anybody.  A lot of that had to do with Jordan Lynch running the show.  He led the team in passing and rushing and accounted for 47 touchdowns.  He was obviously a superstar, but the Northern Illinois offense has proven to work.  Coach Carey is the man behind the philosophy, so it would not be illogical to think that he will find ways to manufacture a high-powered offense even without a Heisman candidate under center.  Not to be overlooked, the defense held its own as well.  Quarterback pressure was a specialty.  They averaged nearly 2.5 sacks per game.  The return of star defensive end Jason Meehan will help keep the defense stout.  

It is difficult to find weaknesses in a team that went 12-2 last season and dominated their conference opponents.  If there was one thing for the Huskies to improve upon it would be their defense overall.  They had a great unit on the run defense, but over the course of the game they gave up over 400 yards of offense to opposing teams.  They just happened to be able to outscore everybody last year.  The other biggest obstacle will be replacing Jordan Lynch.  There is experience on this roster with Drew Hare and Matt McIntosh.  It is impossible for these guys to meet the expectations that Lynch set last season.  Carey will rely on his nine returning offensive starters to help ease the transition.

The Bottom Line:
Promoting Rod Carey to head coach was a great move for Northern Illinois.  The offensive philosophy was already in place at the height of the program’s success.  Jordan Lynch is irreplaceable, but there are a lot of players returning to a 12-win team.  They are set up for another great season in 2014.  Other teams in the MAC – especially Bowling Green and Ball State – are quality opponents, but the Huskies have to feel pretty good about where they are heading into the season.  Carey will look to earn his first bowl win after succeeding so quickly during his first regular season.

Projected Bowl: GoDaddy Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 297.2 (7th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 222.6 (74, 5)
Total Offense: 519.8 (5, 1)
Scoring Offense: 39.6 (11, 1)
Rushing Defense: 151.7 (48, 2)
Pass Defense: 123.9 (52, 5)
Total Defense: 414.9 (78, 8)
Scoring Defense: 25.1 (52, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.9 (10, 2)
Sacks: 2.43 (35, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 0.79 (5, 2)


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