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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: InfoCision Stadium (30,000) -- Akron, Ohio Television: ESPN Plus. Home Record: NIU 4-0, Akron 1-3. Away Record: NIU 2-0, Akron 0-3. Neutral Record: NIU 0-1, Akron 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 3-0, Akron 0-3. Series Record: Northern Illinois leads, 7-5.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Illinois Huskies continue their reign as defending Mid-American Conference champion with a visit to InfoCision Stadium to duel the Terry Bowden led Akron Zips.
The Huskies have been dominating their MAC opposition. NIU picked up its sixth win overall and 11th-straight league victory last week as it annihilated Buffalo, 45-3, at Huskie Stadium. The win made NIU bowl eligible for the fifth-straight year. Coach Dave Doeren has been sensational since taking over the helm of the program as he enters this game with a stellar 17-4 record in two seasons.
Bowden has not had the same success that has become synonymous with his last name in the early stages of his stint at Akron. The Zips are just 1-6 without a win against an FBS opponent, but they have shown improvement and a competitive edge. Akron nearly staged a comeback to upset Ohio University last week, but came up just short and lost by a six-point margin to the undefeated and nationally ranked Bobcats. The Zips have not defeated a conference opponent since their 2010 season-ending, 22-14 win over Buffalo, a span of 11 games.
This will be the 13th meeting in history between the Huskies and Zips. NIU holds a narrow 7-5 series lead after its 50-14 victory on Oct. 2, 2010, which was the last encounter.
The Huskies are excelling this season due to its mighty offense averages of 455.6 yards and 36.9 points per game. NIU leads the MAC in rushing yards and points scored.
Jordan Lynch is at the center of NIU's attack and may be the most explosive quarterback in the nation. He is second to only Michigan's Denard Robinson among FBS quarterbacks with 131.1 rushing yards per game. Lynch is producing 343.6 total yards per game, which is the seventh best average in the FBS. Due to his size, he has been described as a linebacker playing quarterback by his head coach.
Although Lynch is leading the team in rushing yards with 918 on 129 carries, Leighton Settle is a capable back with 403 yards and 5 TDs on 93 touches.
Martel Moore is Lynch's primary target in the passing game. Moore has caught 28 passes for 543 yards and six scores this season. Tommylee Lewis and Ashford Perez have both reeled in double-digit receptions as well.
Defensively, NIU has the fifth best scoring defense in the nation due to its ability to stop teams in the red zone. Opponents have only scored nine touchdowns on 28 trips inside the Huskies' 20-yard line. Due to their bend but not break mentality, the Huskies have the second best scoring defense (19.7) in the MAC.
Although it is not reflected in its record, Akron is an exciting team to watch with the ninth best passing attack in the FBS (333.6 yards per game) due to a fast-paced, no-huddle style. Dalton Williams is averaging just over 49 attempts per game and has a 19-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Williams's favorite target is Marquelo Suel, who has tallied 506 receiving yards and four touchdowns through six games. Zach D'Orazio, Keith Sconiers, L.T. Smith, and Dee Freison also play vital roles in Akron's spread attack.
While Akron clearly emphasizes passing in its offense, Jawon Chisholm is a capable tailback. The sophomore has picked up 675 yards on the ground this season after finishing just 39 yards shy of 1,000 last year as a rookie. Chisholm has reached the 100-yard mark in each of his past three outings, including a 177-yard outing versus Ohio last week.
The Zips are not an intimidating team defensively. Bowling Green is the only one of their six FBS opponents to be held under 30 points. In its past four games, Akron has allowed an embarrassing average of 562.8 yards per game.
Kurt Mangum is the leading tackler with 62 stops, 30 of which are solo stops. J.D. Griggs is a force up front with 4.5 sacks, which is tied for sixth most in the MAC.
Akron's offense can keep it in games if it avoids turnovers. The only way the Huskies lose to the Zips is if they beat themselves. No one has been able to figure out how to stop Lynch this season and Akron is very unlikely to be the team with the antidote.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 45, Akron 27
10/17 10:47:15 ET
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