25 Questions: Northern Illinois

The next two weeks of football may be the ones on which UB's 2010 season turn. NIU and Temple are the class of the conference right now and if UB can either steal a game, or at least go punch for punch with one or both of these teams it could signal a run at the end of the season.

For those living under a rock, here is what NIU did to Temple do last weekend.

Program:

Where are the Huskies at at:

Well on the way to their third bowl game in as many years, except this time there is no CMU or Ball State in the way. Immediately following the bowl games last year NIU had to put on the favorite hat for the MAC West, after some early struggles they are living up to the hype.

Season High Point:

Smacking Temple around throughout the second half of last weeks game. NIU took the Owl's stick and pushed coach Golden to last out at his own teams effort this week.

Season Low Point:

Dropping a very winnable game to in state foe Illinois.

Offense:

Do they take care of the Ball?

They have lost eight through five games but three of those were picks against Iowa state while Harnish was riding the pine.

How is their Passing Offense?

 

Its not the focus of their offense but they still do it better than most teams in the conference. Chandler Harnish has a sick 71% completion rate and has just one pick against eight touchdown in the four games that he has played. He is averaging under 250 through the air per game but when you factor in his running game you are all of the sudden up over 325 per contest.

How is their Rushing Offense?

This is the more explosive part of their game. The passing game can be dangerous but the running game is their bread and butter. Chad Span is the only MAC half back rushing for more than one hundred a game, nobody else is even close at this point.

But it does not end there, Harnish is up over 60 yards a game, ranking seventh in the conference ahead of Buffalo's leading back by 20 YPG. NIU is as good at selling the play action pass, and fake hand off/QB runs as any team I have seen in recent years.

How are their Receivers?

Efficient, clean routs and good hands (especially on Willy Clark). They are only an average set of receivers by most measures but the depth at the position is impressive.

They are not burners but their receivers are very good at finding seems in zone defenses

How about their offensive line?

As good as any in the MAC, NIU is first in the MAC in fewest sacks allowed and fewest tackles for loss.

Are they High Powered?

Yes, Chad Spann is averaging more than six yards per carry, and Harnish is averaging over eight per completion. NIU can kill you with drives that consist of a string of 5-10 yard plays rather than the one big 50+ yard play (though they get their fair share).

How Well do they convert on 3rd?

NIU is eighth in the nation, first in the mac with a 52% conversion rate.

Can their offense close a drive?

NIU is scoring 71% of the points they could be getting in the redzone (26 drives, 15 touchdowns and seven field goals)

Defense:

How Good is their defense?

Fifth in the MAC, but that is against three BCS conference schools.

Do they take the Ball Away?

NIU is near the bottom of the conference in takeaways, seven interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Can they stop the Run?

NIU is giving up 4.3 yards per carry and about 145 per game. That puts them at fourth in the conference.

Can they stop the Pass?

They are statistically one of the top six defenses in the conference.

How do they perform on third downs?

The huskies are giving up 41% of third down attempts, that puts them near the bottom third of all teams.

How is their red zone defense?

The are holding foes to a respectable 60% of red zone points.

How well do they get after the QB?

Just over one and a half per game, NIU is floating in the bottom third of NCAA teams.

Do they get after you in the backfield?

Tied for seventh in the conference with 4.8 per game.

Special Teams:

How is their return game?

Nothing too threatening, though UB has a way of making average teams look great.

How well do they defend returns?

This is the one area where UB matches up well with the Huskies. NIU is, on their best day, an average team when defending the return.

How well do they Kick?

Michael Cklamovsk missed both of his attempts against Iowa State, since then he is 7-7

How Well do they Punt?

NIU's net average punt is dangerously close to 32 yards. That ranks them 12th in the conference.... Just ahead of Buffalo.

How good is NIU at home?

NIU is better than most MAC teams at home. Undefeated this season, one loss last season (Idaho), and just two losses the year before that (CMU/Navy)

How Big is this game for Each Team?

If were talking about winning their respective divisions then this game is equally meaningful to both teams. Toledo is tied with NIU and Buffalo is a half game behind Miami.

But this game has to mean more to Buffalo who, with a win, can walk into the second half of their schedule with three wins and four games that they should win.

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