Preview 2010 - The MAC Game of the Year
Temple RB Bernard Pierce & NIU RB Chad Spann
Temple RB Bernard Pierce & NIU RB Chad Spann
Posted Jun 19, 2010

It might be the preview of the MAC championship game, and if all goes according to form, it'll be a battle of two of the nation's best running backs when Temple and RB Bernard Pierce go to Northern Illinois to battle Chad Spann's Huskies. Check out the quick early look at the MAC Game of the Year.

Preview 2010 - Oct. 9

Temple at Northern Illinois

- 2010 Temple Preview | 2010 Temple Offense
- 2010 Temple Defense | 2010 Temple Depth Chart

- 2010 Northern Illinois Preview | 2010 Northern Illinois Offense
- 2010 Northern Illinois Defense | 2010 Northern Illinois Depth Chart

CFN Early Line: Northern Illinois -3.5

Northern Illinois
Offense: The offense found a groove running the ball last year and that's not going to change now. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was able to get the ground game to average 195 yards per game, tops in the MAC, but the passing attack is just mediocre enough to cause a few problems. The line loses some key stars, but it should be good enough to pound away with, while the All-MAC back Chad Spann heads a dangerous group of runners who, along with the quarterback production, should combine for over 2,500 rushing yards. The question mark will be the knee of QB Chandler Harnish, and if he's not ready to go, then the experienced and mobile DeMarcus Grady will add even more to the rushing mix. The receiving corps is big and experienced, but it won't get too many chances to carry the offense.
Defense: After leading the MAC in total defense, finishing third in scoring defense, and finishing second in sacks and tackles for loss, there's reason to be very, very excited with nine starters returning and a ton of depth to create several good battles for jobs up and down the defense. Thanks to the return of end Jake Coffman, who left the team for a brief period, the pass rush will still be phenomenal. The athleticism in the back seven has been upgraded by the last few recruiting classes, and the potential is there to be even better against the run with more speed at linebacker and the return of tackle Mike Krause from a heart ailment. The secondary needs to use its experience and athleticism to be far better and far more consistent. The pass rush will be there to help, and now the defensive backs have to start picking off more passes.

Three Northern Illinois Players To Know

1) With Meco Brown leaving the program, more of the rushing workload will fall on senior Chad Spann, a 5-9, 198-pound speedster who ran for 1,038 yards and 19 touchdowns while catching ten passes for 122 yards and a score. While not all that big, it all came together for him during the middle of last year with four 100-yard rushing days in five games, but he was a consistent scorer throughout with two or more touchdowns scores in eight games. Slippery, he's tough to find around the goal line and he always seems to find the right holes. Now he has to get healthy after nursing a shoulder problem this offseason.

2) Senior Jake Coffman was done with football and ready to move on with his life, and then he came back and chose to be a part of the fun for one-more year. The 25-year-old Marine was the team's top pass rusher making 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss along with 39 tackles in his first year taking over for Larry English. At 6-5 and 255 pounds, he's tall, quick, and very, very athletic. A second-team All-MAC performer, he's the leader and the playmaker up front that everyone else works around.

3) Junior Tracy Wilson showed good promise last offseason making plays all over the field. After fighting for the job, he showed why there was so much excitement over his potential by making a team-leading 93 tackles with three broken up passes. The 6-2, 203-pounder is a force against the run and manages to get in on every play, but he has to do more when the ball is in the air. He's a true strong safety and not a free.

Offense: Offensive coordinator Matt Rhule has some great veteran pieces to work with. The idea will be for last year's offense, ranked 92nd in the nation, to be balanced, but it's going to stick with its strength, the ground attack, when needed. The running game will be among the best in the MAC with Bernard Pierce working behind a big, veteran offensive line that was arguably the most productive in the league last season. The receivers have upside with the top three receivers returning to go along with star freshman prospect Deon Miller. So what's missing? The quarterback. Chester Stewart is a veteran, but he's not efficient and he needs to prove he can produce with such a strong supporting cast.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's group should be the best in the MAC, and it might not even be close. The front seven is loaded with sure-thing all-stars from reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, end Adrian Robinson, to linebacker Elijah Joseph, to DT Muhammad Wilkerson. This should be a brick wall against the run and great at getting into the backfield. The one issue is in the secondary after giving up way too many big plays. The corners are experienced, but suspect. They'll get help from Jaiquawn Jarrett, who might be the best safety in the conference. There's depth, talent, and the potential to get better. There's a lot to get excited about.

Three Temple Players To Know

1) All Bernard Pierce did as a true freshman was rip apart the MAC and carry the offense to a huge season rushing for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns with a 212-yard, three-touchdown day against Toledo and 267 yards and two scores against Navy. However, he broke down with shoulder injury after carrying too much of the workload, and he missed the key game of the year, the regular-season finale against Ohio, and was limited against UCLA. At 6-0 and 218 pounds, the sophomore is big, runs with power and quickness, and has the potential to be used more as a receiver after catching just eight passes for 39 yards.

2) While junior Adrian Robinson might be built more like an outside linebacker than a true defensive end, he sure rushes the passer like a lineman. The 6-2, 245-pound reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year was one of the team's top recruits in the strong 2008 class, and he more than lived up to his immense potential last season making 46 tackles with 13 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and an interception while also forcing five fumbles. Extremely quick off the edge, it's over when he gets a step on a tackle. More importantly for the Owl defense, it's not like the production came in bunches and it's not like he was stuffed against the big boys making a sack against Penn State and playing well against UCLA.
3) Originally a backup last offseason, Elijah Joseph quickly took over the starting job on the outside and dominated making 63 tackles, two sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss on his way to a first-team All-MAC season. The 6-2, 235-pounder will start out this year working in the middle, but he could quickly go back to the outside to utilize his experience and playmaking skills. He gets to every play and he doesn't miss a tackle.