Believe it or not there is a dedicated SB Nation blog to Northern Illinois! Red and Black Attack has long been a member of hte network, even dating back to our 2009 meeting with the Huskies. Mike Breese had the thrill of a lifetime in seeing his Huskies in the Orange Bowl last year. now he is here to tell us about the 2013 team:
T-Mill: Northern Illinois now has as many BCS bowl appearances as Purdue and more than Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan State from the Big Ten. You, therefore, have the floor to trumpet the success and say how it is going to happen again.
Mike: Well thank you for that opportunity to trumpet the recent success of this football program. Yes, the NIU Huskies got in by the BCS system's rules and there's nothing that anybody can change about that fact. The biggest thing this season is proving that 2012 wasn't just a fluke and that Northern Illinois deserves to be talked about in terms of the top-tier teams in the NCAA. This Huskie team has been to the top of the mountain and has fought a team like Florida State. There's only so much you can do from there. This year the expectations are up with eight starters returning on offense to make a statement. QB Jordan Lynch is returning, as is pretty much his entire offensive line. For a team to achieve as much success as they did last year, this should be frightening to their 2013 opponents. This team is experienced and knows how to close out a game.
T-Mill: I am terrified of Jordan Lynch. Is he the next great MAC QB that Big Ten fans will wonder why he got away in recruiting?
Mike: You could say that Jordan Lynch got away, but his prototype really doesn't fit into what the B1G has to offer. He's a great leader and a great runner and definitely an underrated passer. He's still improving, so who know's what he can accomplish next season. He's a bit short at under 6'0" and I couldn't see him fitting in on any B1G team. All of his attributes perfectly match up to a program like NIU's and I see him as a perfect fit that would have trouble emulating his success at a different program with a whole different scheme.
T-Mill: The NIU defense was sneaky good last year. Can you expect more of the same this year?
Mike: The defense last year had it's miscues here and there, but was the driving force that kept NIU in every single game last season. It's going to be a little tough to emulate the success of last season, but this year the Huskies should have the depth and the talent to do so. The big hits are on the defensive line and linebacking corps. Luckily, NIU rotated a lot of guys in last year to keep the starters fresh plus there were quite a few blowouts to get guys reps. It's been a long offseason and a lot of these young guys will have something to prove early on. It is going to be boom or bust on the defensive side of things, especially with ballhawk S Jimmie Ward leading that side of the ball.
T-Mill: How many fans are looking at Purdue and Iowa as two pelts to return to the BCS with an unbeaten season, especially with the revenge factor coming against Iowa?
Mike: I don't see too many fans going over the edge and saying that this is going to be the year of an undefeated season with wins over Iowa and Purdue. Last year was a dream making the BCS, but most NIU fans are pretty level-headed. Iowa is going to be tough as always, especially on the road and Purdue is the only other team on the schedule that the general college football fan would point out on the schedule as a "quality win" towards a possible BCS bid. Nobody saw last year happening and fans are definitely taking the same amount of precaution in 2013.
T-Mill: Who else should Purdue be afraid of offensively? Chandler Harnish is for sure gone, right? (I know he is with the Colts).
Mike: Ha, Chandler Harnish sure still is with the Colts program in one way or another. The thing is we've got this other guy named Jordan Lynch who put up extremely similar stats compared to Harnish in only his Junior year. He's definitely a danger on the ground and a big thing this year is going to be producing other weapons on offense to go to other than Lynch. Will Akeem Daniels be a breakout running back? Who will step up at receiver? The consistent thing is going to be Lynch running the ball behind a very experienced line and throwing to whoever wants to get open.
T-Mill: Finally, NIU has won at Purdue before. Do you think they make it two in a row?
Mike: I honestly don't know too much about Purdue at this point in the preseason, but nobody thought NIU was going to do much in 2009, and that epic victory happened in West Lafayette. This year all eyes are on the Northern Illinois Huskies and it's at a point in the schedule where I definitely feel like this is a winnable game. If the Huskies don't win at Iowa, the motivation might be higher against the Boilermakers. I'm going to say yes, write down yet another victory for the Huskies against Purdue. It's going to be close though. Hope I don't jinx it. And I sure hope that this puts us undefeated going into conference play. Then again, I'm one of the most optimistic NIU fans on the internet. The Huskies are a top-25 team, but can they live up to expectations on the road? Good luck in September!