Northern Illinois (1-0) at Idaho (0-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 5:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kibbie Dome (16,000) -- Moscow, Idaho. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 0-0, Idaho 0-0. Away Record: NIU 1-0, Idaho 0-2. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Idaho 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, Idaho 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 3-3.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Illinois Huskies may need to rely heavily on their star quarterback as they take on the Idaho Vandals in a non-conference matchup at the Kibbie Dome.
The Huskies defeated Iowa, 30-27, in their season opener in dramatic fashion. They had a bye last week, but still have key contributors Akeem Daniels and Tommylee Lewis listed as questionable for Saturday. To defeat the Hawkeyes, senior safety Jimmie Ward made an interception with 1:24 left to play that set up senior place kicker Mathew Sims for a game-winning 36-yard field goal. The win was the first for NIU head coach Rod Carey, who is now 1-1 in his career.
Idaho's post-Western Athletic Conference era has begun with a pair of lopsided losses to North Texas (40-6) and Wyoming (42-10). The Vandals are currently on an eight-game losing streak, which is one of the longest in the nation. Idaho is playing as an FBS Independent this year, its first under coach Paul Petrino.
This will be the seventh meeting between these schools with each team winning two of three at home. In the most recent encounter, the Vandals defeated NIU, 34-31, in 2009 in Huskie Stadium. NIU has won 21 games in a row at home since that loss.
The Huskies have an excellent chance of winning their third straight Mid- American Conference championship this season with Jordan Lynch running the offense. The senior quarterback began his 2013 campaign by completing 25-of-41 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns, while gaining an additional 56 yards on the ground.
Lynch showed how big of a factor he can be during NIU's run to a BCS bowl last season. He was named a Second-Team All-American and MAC Player of the Year after he completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns against just six interceptions.
He did a good job of spreading the ball around versus the Hawkeyes. Da'Ron Brown caught seven passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Lewis managed five receptions for 82 yards and two scores. Receiver Angelo Sebastiano also enjoyed a career day with five catches for 69 yards. He tied his 2012 season total for catches (5) and surpassed his yardage total (64) in one game.
Due to Daniels's injury, junior tailback Cameron Stingily was the leading ball carrier out of the backfield for NIU versus Iowa with 12 carries for 42 yards. Sophomore Keith Harris, Jr. was also in the mix, but will see his role diminish when Daniels is able to return.
The Huskies allowed 458 yards of total offense to the Hawkeyes but still won thanks to their three takeaways. NIU's defense is clearly going to be led by Ward this season. The senior led the team in tackles with 13 before his game changing pick in the fourth quarter. He wasn't the only Huskie to register an interception. Dechane Durante intercepted his fifth career pass to record NIU's first interception of the season.
As for the Vandals, they come into this one having been outscored, 82-16, in two games. They have been completely outplayed and their inefficiency showed last week as they were limited to 344 yards of offense and lost two fumbles against Wyoming. Idaho really struggled to come up with big plays as it went 5-of-20 on third-down conversions. The Cowboys averaged 7.2 yards per play to Idaho's mere average of 4.4.
Petrino used both Chad Chalich and Joshua McCain at quarterback versus the Cowboys. Chalich completed 22-of-32 passes for 182 yards and McCain was the Vandals' leading rusher with 49 yards on 10 carries.
Chalich has been solid so far with 412 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions in two games. He is completing 69.5 percent of his pass attempts and has some nice targets in Dezmon Epps (155 yards, 14 catches) and Michael LaGrone (126 yards, seven catches). Although its passing game has been mildly effective, Idaho is not having any success on the ground. As a team, the Vandals are gaining an average of only 3.4 yards per carry on the season. McCain is the leading rusher with just 73 yards.
Defensively, Idaho is ranked 120th in the country in total defense with 577.5 ypg allowed. Its opposition has averaged 41 points and 26 first downs per contest. Marc Millan is pacing the team with 19 total tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.
The Vandals have failed twice on the road this season. Unfortunately, a return home won't be enough to help them overcome a team as tough as NIU. Lynch should be able to turn in a big day against Idaho's weak defensive unit. He and the Huskies appear to be poised for another run into the Top 25. They have no reason not to be prepared for the Vandals after having last week off.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 48, Idaho 17
09/11 10:33:31 ET