Returning Starters – Offense: 6 Defense: 8
Preview: Northern Illinois has really become a staple of consistency in the MAC as the Huskies went 11-3 overall last season after losing Heisman finalist QB Jordan lynch to the NFL after the 2013 season. The Huskies were able to exact revenge winning the MAC title by beating Bowling Green in the conference title game, but the year ended on a sour note with a 23-52 bowl loss coming against Marshall. Head coach Rod Carey has had tremendous success picking up a 23-6 record at NIU and the team looks primed for run at their 7th straight division title.
No matter who’s been the coach, Northern Illinois has found a way to rank near the top of the conference in offensive numbers year in and year out. Last season the QB competition was won by Drew Hare and the team is looking forward to having their guy back to start 2015. Hare doesn’t bring the running capabilities of former NIU QBs, but he’s proven himself to be very consistent in the pass game. The question marks on offense come up front with only 2 returning starters along the O-line. At least the other 3 spots will be filled by players that have on field experience with the team. The offense is likely to lean more on the pass game this season with guys like TommyLee Lewis headlining the group. Rushing has been a major part of NIU’s success, but it won’t be easy replacing Stingly and Daniels.
The defense was adequate last season ranking in the middle of the FBS in many categories last season and the unit will returns 8 starters to build around. The D-line returns 3 starters and the unit will look to continue their success of pressuring opposing QBs with ends Clinton-Earl and Ford. The LB corps has 2 starters back including one of the top tacklers from 2014 in Rasheen Lemon. The secondary remains a position of strength for the Huskies with 3 returning starters to a unit that had success forcing turnovers. The secondary is led by leading tackler Marlon Moore and CB Paris Logan.
Prediction: Even though the Huskies loss a large portion of their run game this is still the team to go through in the very tough MAC West. The offense still has the pieces to be dangerous with the pass game more likely to be featured in 2015. The defense should also continue to be solid as the team builds around a solid secondary. The goal for this team will be repeating as MAC champs and winning their bowl game for the first time in 4 years.
Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2)