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Opponent Offense Preview: NIU

Not Good!

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The ‘Dores are on a three game skid, including one loss to the No. 4 team and best offense in the country, LSU, and another to the No. 3 team and 18 offense, UGA. They could use a reprieve.

It’s Northern Illinois to the rescue!

The Huskies are 110th out of 129 FBS teams in total offense and 126th in scoring offense. In three games, they have scored five touchdowns. Five! They average 16.3 points per game. They tend to throw it more than than run it, and that might be because they can’t get a push on from the OL.

The Huskies are under first year head coach, Thomas Hammock, former Huskie player and RB Coach at the Baltimore Ravens. They were expected to run it more often than not, but with a poor OL, they will throw with Bowers, hopefully finding mismatches with their WRs and TE. They can hit big plays, but average only 4.6 yards per play, for 105th nationally.

NIU is 1-2. Their only win came against Illinois State. Against Utah and Nebraska, their second and third opponents, they totaled 302 and 350 yards per game, respectively. For perspective, Utah gives up 274 yards per game while Nebraska yields 356 ypg.

Through the air, 6’2”, SR QB Ross Bowers has accumulated 776 yards, three touchdowns and three INTs. Bowers is a first year starter for NIU, and is averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. Bowers has completed passes for longs of 74, 68, and 45 yards, so it’s not unlike the Huskies cannot hit the home run.

However, the book on him at NIU is rather slim considering he was a grad transfer from Cal.

Two seasons ago, he was the starter at Cal where he threw for over 3,000 yards, but was under 60% completion rate. The Bears were 5-7 while he was at the helm. Bowers completed 18 touchdowns and 12 passes to the opponent.

On the ground, 5’11” 215lbs JR Tre Harbison has rushed for 162 yards on 40 carries. He hasn’t found pay dirt yet, and he hasn’t given up the rock, either. Last year, he rushed for over 1,000 yards on five ypc, but this year he hasn’t had the same consistency. They offensive line hasn’t been able to get a push and the Huskies haven’t rushed for 100 yards in a game yet.

The ball is spread around fairly evenly in the wide receiving core. Five different receivers have caught passes at near the 10 reception marks. Daniel Crawfod, the TE is the leader with 11 and 195 yards. He’s 6’2” 250lbs and could be a match up problem for some defensive backs.

Tyrice Richie is the 6’0” 190lbs WR1 with 11 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Out of conference, he is averaging 15 yards per catch. While Spencer Tears is 6’1” 195 lbs with nine catches for 141 yards. He has the longest play of the year for the Huskies with a 74 yard reception.

The Huskies have been the bell cow in the MAC, but this year they are not potent enough on offense to compete against FBS schools. They should be a nice reprieve for a badgered Vandy defense.