The Northern Illinois Huskies will try to execute a simple answer -- Beat a top 20 team -- Saturday when they meet San Diego State at SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcom Stadium).
The Aztecs have remained perfect in 2017 with four straight wins coming out of the game. The stretch included victories at Arizona State, at home against No. 19/19 Stanford and at Air Force.
While the ASU win was . . .
Northern Illinois, meanwhile, has won two straight since a 23-20 Week One home loss to Boston College. The Huskies are coming off a bye week, giving them some extra time to both prepare and bask in a Sept. 16 win at Nebraska (21-17).
Saturday, Sept. 30 – 10:30 p.m. ET
SDCCU Stadium – San Diego, CA
CBS Sports Network
● SDSU is the only G5 school to defeat to Power 5 conference teams this season and is one of only 24 undefeated teams.
● The No. 19 ranking is San Diego State’s highest rank since reching No. 13 in November of 1975.
● San Diego State won the last meeting between the two schools, 42-28, back on Sept. 17, 2016 at Huskie Stadium. Donnel Pumphrey rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns, while Christian Chapman threw a career-high three touchdowns. The visitors enjoyed a 28-0 lead, but NIU scored three straight TDs to make it a 28-21 game midway through the third quarter.
● Both the Aztecs and Huskies have defenses that can impress. Overall, the Aztes rank 33rd among FBS teams, allowing 19.5 ppg. Northern Illinois is 21st with a 16.7 ppg mark.
SDSU held Stanford to 238 yards and created three turnovers.
● Like NIU, the Aztecs like to move the ball with their ground game. They rank 25th nationally, churning out 227 ypg through the run.
● Senior running back (and kick returner) Rashaad Penny is the latest Aztec rushing phenom. His 7.9 yards per carry so far this year ranks second in the nation and his career average of 7.3 ypc is first among active players with at least 1,880 carries.
● Penny ranks second in all-purpose yards (230 per game) and total TDs (9), seven of which have come via the run.
● SDSU returned five starters on offense this year. Senior right guard Antonio Rosales is the only offensive lineman with a start to his credit prior to this year.
● Quarterback Christian Chapman is 17-3 as a starter. Since his first start in December of 2015, Chapman owns the 18th-best pass efficiency rating in the country. He has secen career games with multiple touchdown passes and has never thrown more than one interception in a game.
● Mikah Holder is averaging 17.8 ypg over his career. He leads the team in both receptions (13) and receiving yards (157).
● SDSU returns seven starters from a 2016 defense that was one of the top units in the country. Those Aztecs were 1st in passes intercepted (22), 11th in rushing defense (111.9 ypc) 12th in total defense (320.2 yp), and 19th in scoring defense (21.0 ppg).
● Parker Baldwin leads SDSU in tackles with 28.
● John Baron has converted 6 of 8 field goal attempts, with a long of 43 this year.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES (2-1)
● The Huskies previously played in then-Qualcomm Stadium in 2006, 2013 and 2015.
● Following NIU’s win over Nebraska, head coach Rod Cary is now 4-1 against teams from the Big Ten. The only loss was a 20-13 decision at No. 1 Ohio Stat in 2015.
● The Huskie defense has surrendered just 50 points through three games. It has also picked off six passes and returned two for touchdowns. Both came in the first quarter against Nebraska. A third interception was one of two big stops by the Huskie offense after Northern scored the winning TD midway through the final period.
● NIU has intercepted at least one pass in nine straight contests. The Huskies offense, meanwhile, avoided throwing at least one interception by avoiding a pick at Nebraska.
● Sophomore defensive end Sutton Smith leads the country in tackles for losee (9.5) through three games and owns three quarterback sacks.
Kyle Pugh and Bobby Jones each own 33 tackles to lead the Huskies.
● Sophomore Daniel Santacaterina took over when junior Ryan Graham was injured against Boston College. Santacaterina is 3-0 as a starter.
● Santacaterina has completed 38 of 56 passes (67.8%) for 380 yards with three TDs and one intrception.
● Senior Jordan Huff leads the NIU rushing attack, averaging 6.3 ypc with 202 yards (1 TD) on 32 trips. Sophomore Marcus Jones produced two TDs among his 24 carries for 114 yards.
● NIU has five TDs through the air. Two were provided by senior tight end Shane Wimann. D.J. Brown and Chad Beebe have combined for 22 receptions for 262 yards.
● Christian Hagan has converted 10 of 10 PATs but is just 3 of 7 on field goal attempts, with a long of 32 this season.