Depth Chart |
Northern Illinois is eight years removed from when it was one of the
worst teams in the MAC, so the rags-to-riches angle doesn't really
apply anymore. Six straight winning seasons and several high profile
wins have changed Joe Novak's program to the point where there are
now big expectations.
Last year finally appeared to be the season that Novak
would finally get over the hump and win the MAC title game. It
wasn't his best team ever, but it got over its biggest annual
hurdle, Toledo, and only had to beat an average Akron team to
finally bring home the goal that had been so elusive.
One miraculous Luke Getsy to to Domenik Hixon touchdown pass later,
NIU lost 31-30 and not only missed out on a title, it was left out
of the bowl picture while Toledo went off and blasted UTEP in the
Head coach: Joe Novak
11th year: 54-60
Off. 17, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 18
Best Huskie Players
1. RB Garrett Wolfe, Sr.
2. OT Doug Free, Sr.
3. QB Phil Horvath, Sr.
4. OT Jon Brost, Soph.
5. FS Dustin Utschig, Sr.
6. DE Larry English, Soph.
7. DE Ken West, Sr.
8. WR Britt Davis, Soph.
9. QB Dan Nicholson, Soph.
10. OK Chris Nendick, Jr.
at Ohio State
at Ball State
at Miami University
at Western Michigan
at Eastern Michigan
2005 predicted wins
Michigan L 33-17
at Northwestern L 38-37
L 48-42 OT
at Kent State
at Central Mich
at Toledo W 35-17
Akron L 31-30
key this season will be consistency. Toledo is the only MAC team as good
as NIU, but the rest of the league has gotten better providing landmines
all over the place. Last year, the Huskies were able to beat Miami
University, Toledo (at Toledo), and came within a controversial
two-point conversion attempt of winning at Northwestern, but lost twice
to Akron and once to Ball State. A team good enough to have battle
Michigan in the season opener, only to get killed by penalties,
shouldn't lose to last year's Ball State team.
Sisyphus of the MAC is going to roll that boulder back up the mountain
again this year with a team loaded with as much talent as anyone in the
league led by All-America candidates Garrett Wolfe at running back and
Doug Free at offensive tackle. There's speed, skill, and enough depth in
most spots to overcome a disaster if injuries hit. In other words, there's no reason to
shoot for anything lower than a repeat trip to the title game and a shot
at winning it all.
There are two brutal Big Ten landmines playing at Ohio
State and Iowa, but other than that, it's a piece of cake. Yeah, the
Huskies have to go to Miami University, but the Toledo showdown is in
DeKalb, and missing Bowling Green is never a bad thing. Playing Ohio,
Buffalo, Indiana State, and at Ball State early should mean a 4-1 start
for any team good enough to dream of a MAC title. Divisional road games
at Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan might be more dangerous than
they look on paper.
Senior RB Garrett Wolfe.
Tackle Doug Free is the better pro prospect, but Wolfe is the star.
It'll take 1,706 rushing yards to pass Michael Turner on the NIU
all-time rushing list, but it might not be the worst thing in the world
if Wolfe doesn't have to be used enough to get to that mark. Even though
he's a tough 5-7 and 173 pounds, he's not indestructible.
Senior FS Dustin Utschig. Easily the team's biggest surprise, Utshig
came from out of nowhere to lead the team in tackles last season and
interceptions. He's a tough tackler who was always in the right position
and never missed a tackle. He not only has to be productive again, he
has to stay on the field with little developed safety depth.
to a successful season:
Junior NT Zack Holycross. There's no size whatsoever on the NIU front
line since the coaching staff chooses to go with smaller, quicker
players. That means the 284-pound Holycross, and his backup, the
273-pound Adam Schroeder, have to hold up or the bigger MAC lines will
steamroll over the Huskie front seven. Shudder to think what Ohio State
and Iowa might do if Holycross isn't a top run stopper.
will be a success if ... Northern Illinois wins the MAC title. It's never fun to get to
a point where anything less but a championship is a failure of a season,
but that's where the Huskies are at.
Nov. 7 vs. Toledo. The Rockets had absolutely owned the Huskies
until a stunning 35-17 NIU win last year in the Glass Bowl changed all
of that. These should be the two best teams in the MAC with the winner
of this nationally televised showdown almost certain to represent the
West in the conference title.
- Completion percentage: Northern Illinois 68% - Opponents 57%
- Red zone scoring percentage: Northern Illinois 91% - Opponents 75%
- Fourth down conversions: Northern Illinois 8 of 12 (67%) - Opponents 9
of 21 (43%)
The Last Time Northern Illinois…
…played in a bowl game…2004 (Silicon Valley Bowl vs. Troy)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2002 (Central Michigan)
…was shutout…1999 (Iowa)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Western Michigan)
…won a conference title…1983 (MAC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1963 (George Bork)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Garrett Wolfe)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Sam Hurd)
…had a first-round draft choice…never