Tuesday’s showdown between the Northern Illinois Huskies and Toledo Rockets might have been anticipated months ago – at least in some circles.
Certainly, the Rockets had the nod coming into the 2014 season, but even with NIU’s substantial personnel losses, few could count the Huskies out and many opponents likely had an uneasy feeling about the head coach Rod Carey’s crew.
Sure enough, while Toledo is the only MAC team with an unblemished conference record, the Rockets may well be considered underdogs in Tuesday’s big matchup.
1. Toledo injuries
2. Northern’s home field advantage.
Toledo’s injury situation took a turn for the “even worse” in last week’s win over Kent State. Senior center Greg Mancz, an All-MAC performer, and sophomore quarterback Logan Woodside both left the game with what appeared to be significant injuries. Neither returned. Woodside was actually a replacement for Phillip Ely, who earned signal-calling duties to start the season but was subsequently lost due to injury.
Even standout running back Kareen Hunt (ankle) is banged up. He had 141 yards against Kent State but was only to take four rushing in the second half.
All three of the aforementioned were listed on the depth chart. How much and how well they can play remains to be seen. Campbell said this week that Mancz is ready to play, while Woodside was under observation in practice. Redshirt freshman Michael Julian finished up for the Rockets at Kent State, completing 2 of 6 for minus-1 yard.
As for home field advantage, NIU has won three straight against UT at Huskie Stadium. Of course, Northern has also won the last four meetings, and five of the last six games in the series, so its not like the Huskies have necessarily needed home field advantage.
Here are some more notes on each team:
- The Huskies lone MAC loss of 2014 was at home against Central Michigan (34-17) back on Oct. 11. The Chippewas are the only MAC team to earn a victory in DeKalb since 2008.
- With just five fumbles lost and two interceptions thrown, NIU leads the FBS in fewest turnovers lost, along with Georgia and Duke.
-- The Huskies forced five turnovers in their recent 35-21 win over Ball State.
- NIU leads the MAC and ranks fifth nationally in third down efficiency (51.7%). It is one of seven NCAA statistical categories in which NIU leads the MAC and is among the top 10 in the nation.
-- The Huskies offensive line, which features five players with 146 combined starts, have not allowed a sack in five games this season. Northern leads the MAC and is sixth in the country in sacks allowed with just seven sacks through nine games.
-- Redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Hare ranks second in the MAC and 28th in the country in passing efficiency. Hare is a very capable runner who has averaged 6.6 ypc in 2014. His best rushing outing was 180 yards on 17 carries versus Miami. He also completed 12 of 16 for 185 yards.
- Northern Illinois leads the MAC in rushing offense, averaging 265.7 ypg. It will be facing a Toledo defense that leads the MAC in rushing defense (113.3 ypg).
- Since 2010, the Huskies are 31-0 when rushing 45 or more times a game.
- Senior RB Cameron Stingly posted his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and sixth of his career with a season high 148 yards on 26 carries in the Huskies win over Ball State.
- Wide receiver Da’Ron Brown is a big play threat for NIU. He ranks fifth in the MAC in receiving yards per game (81.9). He is averaging 16.8 ypc in 2014 with five TDs and a long of 61.
- Toledo is 5-0 in MAC play for the third time in the last five seasons. With the win over Kent State, UT is now 13-1 against MAC Eat Division foes since 2010.
- The Rockets lead the MAC in total offense (495.9 ypg). They are No. 2 in scoring offense (34.4 ppg) and rushing offense (245.3 ypg).
- Running back Kareem Hunt is fourth in the nation in rushing yards per attempt (8.41). He is third in the MAC with 144.3 ypg). He would rank fourth in the nation in rushing yards per attempt, but he has not played in the required 75 percent of his team’s games.
- Senior placekicker Jeremiah Detmer ranks first among MAC kickers in career field goal percentage (86.3%). He has hit 15 of 18 (83.3%) this year.
- Toledo leads the league in red-zone offense (89.4%), kickoff coverage, first downs, field goal percentage and fourth down conversions. UT ranks No. 2 in sacks allowed (8) and third down conversions (48.5%).
-- Corey Jones ranks fifth among MAC receivers with 6.2 catches per game and is eighth in receiving yards (71.3 ypg). He is also third in punt return average (6.9 ypr).
- Junior WR Alonzo Russell has caught at least one pass in every game of his UT career (34 straight). The Biletnikoff Award candidate caught the game-winning 22-yard TD in Toledo’s overtime victory at Western Michigan Oct. 4. He totaled seven catches for 120 yards and two TDs in the contest.
- Trent Voss leads MAC linemen with 5.9 tackles per contest. He is tied for fourth in tackles for loss (10.0).
-- Jordan Haden is third (MAC) in interceptions (3).