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Know your foe: Northern Illinois

Game 6: Northern Illinois at Buffalo

When: Saturday October22th

Where: Lincoln Financial

Series History: Buffalo 7 - Temple 3

Tickets: Starting at 18$

No team is as snake bitten in Detroit as the Huskies. For the second time in recent memory NIU strolled into the MAC Championship game as the team widely considered to be the class of the conference. Then, for the second time in recent memory they were beaten on what amounts to a freak play late in the game. This time, unlike 2005, NIU lost one more thing, their coach.

This is the third MAC team on UB's slate that is breaking in a new coach, with one more to come. Jerry Kill was spirited away from DeKalb after the MAC Championship game by the Golden Gophers. The man tapped to take over the Huskies is Dave Doere, Wisconsin's last defensive coordinator. This is one of the more solid coaching pickups by a MAC team in several years. It blows the doors off Addazio and Quinn. Doere Coached an amazing defense and he did it practically in NIU's back yard.

With the Huskies in something of a defensive rebuilding mode bringing in a solid defensive coordinator is the perfect move. They still have a ton of talent and should not have too much trouble matching their offenses performance from last season. What NIU needs is for their defense to function without a boat load of their leaders from 2010.

NIU on Offense:

It's hard to imagine losing the MAC player of the year and having it not be crushing to an offense but that's what is going on with NIU. The Huskies lose Chadd Span but they return their entire line and Chandler Harnish. The word from NIU's staff is that tempo aside there will be few if any changes to the Huskies Attack. NIU returns all of their linemen and a solid contender for the MAC player of the year lining up behind center.

Harnish, when healthy, is one of the biggest offensive weapons in the conference. He moves around in the pocket very well and has a good sense of when he needs to tuck and run. He also does a lot of damage on designed Quarterback runs. It's telling that a player with a history of knee problems was able to put up more than 800 yards on the ground.

Last season he destroyed UB:

Passing Rushing
C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT CAR YDS AVG TD LG
13/26 160 6.2 2 2 14 75 5.4 1 25

 

The two picks accounted for 40% of his season total, and they were what kept the Bulls in the game for the first half. It was 

Jasmin Hopkins now sits atop the running back depth chart. Being charged with replacing MAC Player of the Year, Chad Spann, seems a little easier when you  inherit Spann's entire offensive line. Hopkins may be "the starter" but by the time week seven rolls around UB might be facing any number of backs.

Jamal Womble, Akeem Daniels and Leighton Settle are all competent backs and would also all have the benefit of the line and Harnish. Any one of these backs could take the job, become part of a committee backfield, or push Hopkins game to an even higher level.

As a team NIU can move just fine against UB no matter how they choose to attack. It's very likely that just as they did last season it will be a balanced attack that leans towards the run.

NIU on Defense:

Newly minted defensive coordinator Jay Niemann inherits a defense that finished 26th in the nation in yards allowed and 14th in scoring defense. The defense suffered far greater losses than the offense, the most significant being on the defensive line. Jake Coffman was their pass rush last season, he racked up an impressive 9.5 sacks. NIU has nobody coming in this year is likely to replace that by themselves. But they may find answers in numbers.

The Huskies do have experience returning. Sean Progar won first team all MAC honors last year and he will again be a big factor. The problem for NIU is that there are so many questions in the front seven. They are staying with their 4-3 defense but the losses on the line, and among the linebackers means the defense might not be as dominant against the run as they were last season.

They do have some proven players in the defensive backfield but no real depth to back them up. This could make their nickle and dime packages a little thin to a team that's deep at wide receiver. UB fits that bill and plays four and five receiver sets.

Outlook:

Yes, Again (Likely Loss):

NIU is one of the top 35 or so schools in the nation right now. Despite their losses on defense they should have little trouble slowing down Buffalo's offense even if the Bulls have improved. Their new staff brings the experience needed to rebuild a D and the Offense is returning people at all the key positions.

The Huskies may be a ten win team this season, not counting the MAC Championship game or whatever Bowl they end up in.

The Bulls can win if:

If UB's offensive line manages the front four of NIU UB should be able to beat NIU on the ground or in the air. The Skill positions are far better for Buffalo this year than they were last season but none of that is going to matter if Chazz Anderson is running for his life the whole game. The Bulls quarterback is far more mobile than what we saw last season so he can handle himself if the pocket breaks down but he can't spend the whole game on the move.

Defensively UB needs to contain Harnish. He is going to get free a couple of times on the run but the Bulls need to keep that to a minimum. If he runs for 50-100 yards it means their backs are likely killing us.

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The Original SBNation MAC blog was Red and Black Attack.