2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 4 - Cal Poly at NIU
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Sept. 24 at Northern Illinois 47 … Cal Poly 30
CFN Analysis: Northern Illinois got back on track after the Wisconsin debacle by getting back to the running game. Chandler Harnish was nearly perfect, completing 18-of-21 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 118 yards and a score. Jasmin Hopkins ground out 143 yards and two scores as part of the 355 rushing yards the Huskies cranked out, and despite the not-that-bad looking final score, it was a blowout. The run defense remains way too soft and the pass rush has been mediocre, but with lightweights Central Michigan and Kent State up next, there’s time to work on it before dealing with Western Michigan.
(AP) DEKALB, Ill. -- Quarterback Chandler Harnish broke a 48-year-old school touchdown record as Northern Illinois snapped a two-game losing streak with a 47-30 victory over Cal Poly on Saturday.
Harnish's two passing touchdowns and two more rushing gave him 67 for his career, besting the old mark of 66 set by George Bork between 1960-63.
The Huskies (2-2) scored on all six first half possessions on the way to a 34-7 halftime lead. The Mustangs (1-3) broke the shutout on Andre Broadous' 2-yard run with 5:39 left in the first half. Cal Poly scored four times in the second half.
Harnish was 18 of 21 for 187 yard passing and rushed 13 times for 118 yards. Tailback Jasmin Hopkins rushed 22 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns for Northern Illinois.
Broadous led Cal Poly with 103 yards on 24 carries.
Cal Poly (1-2) at Northern Illinois (1-2) Sep. 24, 3:30,
Here’s The Deal … As is often the case with some of these early season tilts between an FCS and FBS school, this is the first meeting between the two. Cal Poly is coming off of its first win by demolishing South Dakota State, while Northern Illinois is still licking its wounds after being pounded into oblivion by the Wisconsin Badgers for its second loss of the year. Both have records that sit at 1-2, so they’ll both be looking to even their slate.
For the Huskies, this will serve as a tune up before the hopes of a title run in the MAC Conference that begins next week on the road vs. Central Michigan. For the Mustangs, this is one of the bigger obstacles in a string of non-conference games that prelude the four game league schedule later in the year.
Why Cal Poly Might Win: Cal Poly does its damage on the ground, and for good reason. The Mustangs have an offensive line that many FBS schools would drool over with every offensive linemen over 6’2” with an average weight of 280 lbs. It’s a physical team and uses a running back by committee approach to control the clock and eat up chunks on the ground. Through the first three games, the Mustangs are averaging a staggering 55 carries per game for an average of 230 yards a contest.
And where has Northern Illinois struggled this year with its rebuilt defense?
Stopping the run has not been the Huskies forte. Of course playing Wisconsin doesn’t help, but even with the rest of the competition so far this year, Northern Illinois is ranked 117 in rush defense, giving up an average of 274 yards per game. It is THE reason that the NIU is ranked as the 115th defense in FBS so far this year. Cal Poly is going to have a game plan to pound away, and the Huskies have been more nail than hammer when teams try to run right at them. This is not your average FCS sized team, and the physical play of the Mustangs will have some success moving the ball. If they can finish drives and not settle for field goals, then game on.
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: The stats are skewed a bit. When you take on two heavily grounded teams in Army and Wisconsin, there is undoubtedly going to be some ground given by way of foot. Truth be told, any other team in America that would have had to go up against the Cadets and Badgers in its first three games are going to be bruised and battered in the box scores. Though Cal Poly has legitimate guys that can simulate the same type of attack, it won’t be the same caliber and the Huskies should be able to slow down the Mustangs when it counts.
What has gone unnoticed in all of the issues surrounding the defense is how good the offense has produced on both the run and passing attack. The Huskies are not setting new records in either element, but they have been very efficient and balanced. Overall, the offense is ranked 57th in rushing, and 54th in passing and scoring. That’s fairly good when you throw out the trouble the Huskies had moving the ball in Soldier Field last weekend against a very good Wisconsin defense.
All told, the level of play outside of the Wisconsin game is going to be much closer to what NIU will face on Saturday than what the Badgers brought to the table. The offense could be ready to break out against a Cal Poly team that hasn’t exactly held teams down on either side of the ball in the lower division.
What To Watch Out For: You may not see another game this year in which there is such a focus by one team on running the ball at nauseam. The Mustangs are going to bring multiple backs, have the quarterback run some, and then pound away with the team managers. When they do run, look for the plays to go to the left side more often than not because of their senior left tackle, Scott Winnewisser. The 6’5”, 285 lb. mountain of a man is not only big, but has quick feet and agility. He is the complete package for any level and Cal Poly will be ready to hitch the wagons of possible victory to his broad shoulders.
For Northern Illinois, they were expected to do big things on offense this year. It has a talented and veteran offensive line, a star in the making tailback in senior RB Jasmin Hopkins, and most importantly, a QB that should be able to build off of a big 2010 campaign. So far this year, the play of the 6’2”, 220 lb.Chandler Harnish has been spotty, but beginning this week, he should start hitting his stride as the competition level gets more to his liking. Cal Poly is going to have pick its poison by taking away one dimension of the balanced Husky attack, and either way at some point, Harnish is going to get his stats through the air and put up big numbers.
What Will Happen: This game is going to be a good old trench war. The offensive line of Cal Poly is going to be blasting away at the defensive line of Northern Illinois all game long, and the Mustangs will have some success. They’ll move the ball, control some clock, and try to stay in it.
Northern Illinois will show everyone why they are a contender in the MAC and find its ghost of seasons past. No matter what the Mustangs try to take away, they just won’t have an answer for the multiple weapons that NIU can counter with on offense. The score will remain somewhat respectable because of the overindulgence in the running attack by Cal Poly, but it just won’t be enough to stop the bleeding on the other side of the ball. The score will not be indicative of the domination. The Huskies make a statement and roll into the MAC season with a much needed confidence boost.
CFN Prediction: Northern Illinois 30 … Cal Poly 14
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