Northern Illinois vs. Western Illinois prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the in-state battle between the Huskies and Leathernecks.
Northern Illinois vs. Western Illinois Game Preview
When: Saturday, Sept. 24 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, Ill.
TV Broadcast: ESPN3
Northern Illinois has played in a bowl game for eight straight years and appeared in the last six MAC Championship games. But unless things turn around quickly, both of those streaks could come to an end. The Huskies are off to an 0-3 start, with the last two defeats coming by a combined 45 points. They’ve allowed an average of 516.7 yards per game and surrendered 17 touchdowns from scrimmage to rank 11th in the 12-team MAC in both categories.
It won’t get any easier for the Huskies as they try to avoid their first 0-4 start since 1999. Western Illinois ranks No. 13 in the STATS FCS Poll and has won its first two games under first-year coach Charlie Fisher. The Leathernecks have had two weeks to prepare for NIU after beating Northern Arizona, 34-20, on Sept. 10.
What To Know About Northern Illinois
It’s not the only reason, but the loss of starting quarterback Drew Hare certainly has contributed to the Huskies’ poor start. Hare went down with knee and ankle injuries in the loss to South Florida on Sept. 10 and will be out for the “majority of the season,” according to coach Rod Carey. He completed 62.7 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Backup Ryan Graham has a 52.9 completion percentage with two picks since taking over in the second half of the USF game. Both of the interceptions came in last week’s 42-28 loss to San Diego State.
What to Know About Western Illinois
The Leathernecks picked up 539 total yards against Northern Arizona as Sean McGuire finished 22 of 31 for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His favorite target has been standout receiver Lance Lenoir, who caught 11 passes for 231 yards and a score in that contest. The Huskies need to be wary of the running game, too, after Steve McShane ran 24 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Offense: Western Illinois – Graham has to prove he can lead the Huskies.
Defense: Western Illinois – Held Case Cookus, one of the top FCS quarterbacks, to fewer than 300 yards.
Special Teams: Even – Neither team has a very strong kicking game.
Coaching: Northern Illinois – Carey has led NIU to at least eight wins in each of his three seasons and is capable of turning around this campaign.
Intangibles: Northern Illinois – Gets the home matchup in the first meeting since 2009.
Matchup To Watch
Graham vs. Western Illinois’ defense
The Leathernecks forced Cookus into shallow throws when he likes to toss it deep and contained one of the FCS’ most explosive offenses. Graham is going to have his work cut out for him
Spread: Northern Illinois -7
Northern Illinois vs. Western Illinois Prediction
Graham begins to settle in and picks apart the Leathernecks with four touchdown passes as NIU finally gets its first win of the season.
Northern Illinois vs. Western Illinois Score Prediction: NIU 31, WIU 21