Central Michigan (2-1) at Northern Illinois (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Huskie Stadium (24,000) -- DeKalb, Illinois. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: CMU 1-1, NIU 2-0. Away Record: CMU 1-0, NIU 1-0. Neutral Record: CMU 0-0, NIU 0-1. Conference Record: CMU 0-0, NIU 0-0. Series Record: Central Michigan leads, 25-21-1.
GAME NOTES: Northern Illinois looks to extend its home winning streak to 18 games in a row as it begins its Mid-American Conference season against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Huskie Stadium.
CMU is riding a wave of momentum in this one after kicker David Harman drilled a 47-yard field goal with just seconds remaining to push the team to a 32-31 victory over Iowa. Harman's game-winner improved the Chippewas to 2-1 overall as they came in at .500 after a win over Southeast Missouri State and a loss to Michigan State. Saturday's contest is the second of a three-game road set in addition to being the MAC opener for CMU. Coach Dan Enos, now in his third season with the program, has a career record of 8-19.
NIU is off to a strong, 3-1 start in its reign as MAC Champions. The Huskies began their season with a one-point loss to Iowa at Soldier Field, but followed it with three consecutive wins over Tennessee-Martin (35-7), Army (41-40), and Kansas (30-23). NIU has won 15 of its last 16 conference games and has not lost a MAC contest at home since Nov. 12, 2008. Coach Dave Doeren is in his second season with the program and enters with a 14-4 record.
The Chippewas are NIU's most frequent competitor in school history. This will be the 48th encounter in history between these programs. CMU is the last MAC team to defeat the Huskies, winning 48-41 in Mount Pleasant on Oct. 1, 2011. The victory increased the Chippewas all-time series lead to 25-21-1. CMU is the only team to defeat NIU in the past two regular seasons and also the last team from the league to win at Huskie Stadium.
CMU's passing attack finally got off the ground last week as Ryan Radcliff completed 26-of-35 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first instance this season where Radcliff threw multiple touchdown passes and did not throw an interception. The senior signal caller was named the MAC West Co- Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts versus Iowa.
Zurlon Tipton has been the go-to-guy this season. After gaining a career-high 180 yards in the season opener, Tipton added another 134 in the team's next two games. Anthony Garland sees a portion of the carries as Tipton's backup.
Look for sophomore WR Titus Davis to build on last week's strong showing. Davis, who ended last season with six touchdowns in the final three games, caught his first two touchdown passes of the season versus Iowa.
CMU's defense has allowed 411 yards and 33 points per contest through three games. The squad's inability to stop the run will be a major concern heading into its matchup with NIU.
The Huskies have not missed a beat since Jordan Lynch took over the starting role for the graduated Chandler Harnish. The team is averaging just under 400 yards and 30.8 points per game.
Lynch has won back-to-back MAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors and ranks in the top 20 in the FBS in rushing, total offense, and total touchdowns. The dual threat quarterback has broken off impressive 73-yard and 88-yard runs for scores already this season.
Although Lynch is leading the team in rushing yards with 438 on 64 carries, Leighton Settle is a capable back with 226 yards and a touchdown on 53 touches.
Martel Moore is Lynch's primary target in the passing game. Moore has caught 20 passes for 344 yards and four scores this season. Tommylee Lewis and Ashford Perez have both reeled in double-digit receptions as well.
Defensively, NIU has the best rated pass defense in the conference and has allowed only one score through the air this season. Jimmie Ward is leading the team with 39 tackles and five pass break-ups.
The Huskies are able to apply consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks due to the pass rushing tandem of Alan Baxter and Joe Windsor. NIU has registered 13 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in four games.
CMU is going to have trouble taking down NIU in its own backyard. The Chippewas have already shown improvement from last season with their win over Iowa, but the Huskies have too much talent on both sides of the ball to overcome.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 35, Central Michigan 24
09/26 10:44:53 ET