13 Teams/13 Days Countdown: Northern Illinois Huskies

Updated 8/22/2013

Conference: MAC, West Division
Location: DeKalb, Ill.
Nickname: Huskies
Returning starters: 12 (8 offense, 4 defense)
2012 record: 12-2 (8-0 MAC)
Aug. 31 -- at Iowa, 2:30 p.m. CT (BTN)
Sept. 14 -- at Idaho, 4:00 p.m. CT
Sept. 21 -- Eastern Illinois 6 p.m. CT
Sept. 28 -- at Purdue 11 a.m. CT
Oct. 5 -- at Kent State 2:30 p.m. CT
Oct. 12 -- Akron 4 p.m. CT
Oct. 19 -- at Central Michigan 2 p.m. CT
Oct. 26 -- Eastern Michigan 2:30 p.m CT
Nov. 2 -- at Massachusetts 11 a.m. CT (ESPN Regional/ESPN3/GamePlan)
Nov. 13 --  Ball State 7 p.m. CT (ESPN2/ESPNU)
Nov. 20 -- at Toledo 7 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Nov. 26 -- Western Michigan 6 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
SOCIAL MEDIA (Accounts to FOLLOW on Twitter if you are a Norhern Illinois Fan)
Media Coverage: @HuskieWire; @SNitz_DDC
Fan Accounts: @Huskie_Nation
In a nutshell: I'm not thinking about tomorrow. Why? Because today is just too much fun: Northern Illinois remains the clear and undisputed leader in the MAC for another year, coaching change or no, and is once again a major threat for 12 or 13 wins and an at-large BCS bid. Nothing has changed; if anything, this team might be better than last year's version, the best in program history. I won't go that far, but I will say this: NIU is a special team with more than enough in the tank for another run at perfection. Remind me why this year's team is set for a decline?
I'll play devil's advocate and give you two reasons for negativity: one, the second tier of the depth chart on defense, and two, the youthful makeup of the Huskies' offensive skill players. Backfield depth is a touch reliant on unproven quantities, especially if we discount Keith Harris' freshman production; at receiver in particular, however, NIU will need a few freshmen and sophomores to deliver. On defense, the quality of the starting 11 is tempered somewhat by the inexperienced nature of the reserve corps. Having said that, this will only be an issue until these underclassmen gain experience – which they'll begin to do in late August.
There's Lynch at quarterback. A wonderful offensive line. Speed to burn at receiver, along with some very impressive young talent. The defensive line is loaded with seniors. The linebacker corps has off-the-charts potential. The secondary is the strength of the defense. Special teams are in the Huskies' favor. Barring injury or the unforeseeable, the Huskies are going to win the MAC and make a run at the BCS. My take: NIU goes 10-2 or 11-1 in the regular season, beating at least one Big Ten opponent, and nets another conference championship. Losing one game in the regular season could land NIU another BCS spot, should Louisville and Boise State suffer their own setbacks. It'll be another banner season. Let's talk about 2014 in, you know, 2014.
READ MORE of the USA Today's Preview (courtesy of Paul Myerberg) by CLICKING HERE