NIU favored in preseason polls

James Krause

NIU football was named the favorite to win their division in a preseason media poll released Tuesday.

With 15 votes for first place, the Huskies were narrow favorites over the Toledo Rockets, who NIU hosts Nov. 7. The Ohio Bobcats are the overall favorite to win the Mid-American Conference.

The announcement came at MAC Media Day on Tuesday from Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, the same stadium to host the MAC Championship Game Nov. 30.

All 12 MAC teams were present at the event including NIU represented by Head Coach Rod Carey, senior offensive tackle Max Scharping and junior defensive end Sutton Smith.

Carey and Smith went onto ESPN 3’s coverage of MAC Media Day to talk about the upcoming season, where Carey said the team hopes to be returning to Detroit in November for the championship.

“We played [at Ford Field] in our bowl game against Duke,” Carey said. “We like it better when we’re there for the championship game, not the bowl game.”

The Huskies played at Ford Field in the Quick Lane Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils Dec. 26, losing 36-14.

Carey discussed struggles the team faced the past few seasons with quarterback issues and how sophomore Marcus Childers has the opportunity to change that all-around.

“We hit some tough times with quarterbacks and health,” Carey said. “When the head of the snake isn’t there, it’s tough to wiggle around. I think Marcus probably played before he should have last year, to be honest, but he had to because of certain situations we had and I thought he came in and played well.”

Last season, Smith broke a pair of school records with 29.5 tackles for a loss, the most in the country, and 14 sacks, the third most in the country. Smith told ESPN he wants to set his goals even higher than school records.

“I had quite a bit of goals last season,” Smith said. “I wanted to beat all the records at NIU. Now I’m kind of moving forward to the national records. I want to beat the TFL record, I want to beat the sack record, all in one season. That’s what I’ve got to move towards to be great.”

Smith and Scharping also participated in the MAC Youth Football Clinic at Ford Field on Monday night. MAC coaches and players led the clinic of 400 youth football players from the Detroit Police Athletic League.