With a spot in the MAC Championship already locked up, NIU football heads to Ypsilanti, Mich., for its final regular season game against Eastern Michigan Friday.
On top of clinching a spot in the MAC Championship game, the Huskies (10-1, 7-0 MAC) have moved into The Associated Press Top-25 at No. 24 and the USA Today poll at No. 23. They also look to continue their 10-game winning streak and their 15-game winning streak against MAC opponents.
The Huskies come into their matchup coming off a 31-24 victory over Toledo after a historic performance by junior quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch became the first quarterback in college football history to throw for more than 400 yards and rush for more than 150 yards in the same game.
The Eagles (2-9, 1-6) are coming off their first MAC win this season after defeating the Broncos of Western Michigan, 29-23, on Saturday. Eastern Michigan was led by quarterback sophomore Tyler Benz, who completed 13 of 21 passes, threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
The Huskies will have to scheme a little different for this game, as the Eagles feature a two-quarterback offense between Benz and senior Alex Gillett.
“Gillett plays quarterback some and when he is not a quarterback he is playing receiver,” said NIU coach Dave Doeren in a news conference. “When he is a quarterback the other quarterback is lined up at receiver also, so they are both in the game most of the time. I think Gillett was their guy when the season started and had some problems in the throwing game, so Benz has kind of taken over from that stand point.
“But at the same time Gillett is a dynamic runner and you can see it using both of the quarterbacks’ strengths within the game.”
NIU linebacker Jamaal Bass believes that scheming for the two-quarterback system could be challenging.
“It makes it a little difficult, but we already have our game plan in for both of them,” Bass said in a news conference. “One of them is primarily a runner and the other one is primarily a passer. We have different schemes for both of them.”
While the Huskies feature the best rushing offense in the MAC, averaging 245.3 yards per game, the Eagles come into this game as the worst rush defense in the MAC, giving up an average of 268.8 yards per game.
Despite their difficulties stopping the run, Doeren believes the Eagles’ defense is a talented group.
“They are kind of like us last year on defense, to be honest with you,” Doeren said in a news conference. “You see the talent but they are just not consistently where they want to be. They are well coached and their schemes are sound and they are still getting experience and things like that.”