NIU football: Grading the Huskies’ 2015 schedule

By Frank Gogola

Football’s 2015 schedule, released by the MAC Friday, features eight Saturday games, two Tuesday games and two Wednesday games.

After a three-game homestand near the middle of last season’s schedule, a weeknight game in August and a weeknight game in November it’s great to see the home games split up a little more reasonably this time around. But, the home schedule is somewhat front-loaded and back-loaded with two home games to start and end the season.

The 2015 season will be the 50th anniversary of Huskie Stadium. NIU is 163-96-2 all time at Huskie Stadium.

Schedule grade: B

There’s a good slate of non-conference opponents from varying levels of excellence. There’s six home games for the first time since 2012.

But, I expected the game against the Western Michigan Broncos to be the final home game because of the high potential of the winner of that game winning the MAC West crown. Also, there is a somewhat long wait in between home games from Sept. 12 to Oct. 10 and then from Oct. 24 to Nov. 18.

Three-straight road games against the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Boston College Eagles and the Central Michigan Chippewas is the most brutal stretch of the season for the team. I can see the Huskies opening their season either 4-1 or 3-2.

Best home game to attend

Western Michigan has more or less become NIU’s rivalry game as of late. Partly because former Huskie P.J. Fleck is guiding the ship — err, rowing the boat — at Western Michigan and partly because he’s turned around the Broncos in a huge way as they went 8-5 (6-2 MAC) in 2014 after going 1-11 (1-7 MAC) in his first year. Fleck also added a boost to a solid club when he signed the No. 1 recruiting class among MAC teams in early February, according to 247sports’ rankings.

Worst home game to attend

The matchup against the Murray State Racers, a Football Championship Subdivision team out of the Ohio Valley Conference, will be the 2015 version of last season’s opener against the Presbyterian Blue Hose. The Huskies racked up 635 total yards of offense as they laid a 55-3 drubbing on the Blue Hose in a game that was over after less than four minutes. The Sept. 12 game against the Racers has potential to be nearly as brutal a beatdown.

Best road game to attend

The game against the Boston College Eagles beats out stiff competition in the Ohio State Buckeyes for two reasons. First, there’s a much better chance the Huskies can knock off the Eagles on the road than try to topple the defending national champion Buckeyes. Second, while it would be cool to see the Huskies play in a college-football crazy environment at “The Horseshoe” in Columbus, Ohio, Boston is simply a better tourist destination if you’re looking to take in some American history before or after the game as you can make an extended weekend trip out of this game.

Worst road game to attend

Here’s another toss-up. The Central Michigan Chippewas knocked off the Huskies at Homecoming last year, and I’m sure fans would love to see NIU go into the Chippewas’ house and pay them a return favor. The last time NIU played at the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks was Oct. 24, 2009. Games against the Toledo Rockets always seems to have big implications. The Buffalo Bulls will be an improved team this year, but I’ll personally give the game against Buffalo the label as worst because it’ll be a night game in a likely snow-covered Buffalo.