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September 29, 2012

Staff Predictions: Northern Illinois

Corey Dull, Staff Writer

After a thrilling 32-31 victory at Iowa last week, Central Michigan is on the road again, heading to Northern Illinois in their first conference game of the season. The Chippewas are looking to ride their momentum from last week, when kicker David Harmon kicked the game-winning field goal with three seconds left, and knock off the Huskies of Northern Illinois Saturday.

Northern Illinois are the defending MAC champions. NIU is coming off of a big 30-23 victory over Kansas last week, where they scored 17 unanswered points to win. Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch is coming off of back-to-back MAC West Player of the Week awards and ranks in the Top 20 of the NCAA in rushing and total offense. It may be a tough task for the CMU defense to handle him in this game.

Central Michigan defeated a very tough NIU team last year in Mount Pleasant last year. That team was led by quarterback Chandler Harnish. The good news for CMU is that Harnish is no longer playing for the Huskies, but the bad news is that they have reloaded with Lynch. The Chippewas moved the ball very well last week against Iowa, and picked up their fifth victory all-time versus the Big Ten. Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw the ball very well, going 26-of-35 with 283 yards and two touchdowns and he did not turn the ball over in a very tough environment. Senior wide receiver Cody Wilson had a big game for the Chips as he made eight catches for 105 yards.

Each defense could have their hands full this weekend. Both quarterbacks have been playing very well as of late, leading their teams to come-from-behind victories. Coach Enos says that his team is moving on from their upset victory last week and CMU fans hope that is true. NIU has won 17 straight home games dating back to September 2009. MAC teams can put up a ton of points during conference play and I don't see this game being any different. I think the Chippewas pull off another thriller on the road.

Prediction: Central Michigan 34, Northern Illinois 28

Jeff Horodeczny, Staff Writer

The Chippewas start conference play this week as they head to DeKalb, Ill. to face the defending MAC champion, the Northern Illinois Huskies. Last week the Chippewas had a huge upset win, taking down the Iowa Hawkeyes, in what was arguably head coach Dan Enos' biggest win at CMU. The Huskies also had a good week, taking down another BCS school in Kansas. NIU also had to rally late to take down the Jayhawks, getting a late score from running back Leighton Settle to take the lead with 4:33 left in the game.

The Huskies have won 17 straight home games and look to continue to employ their offensive firepower with new starting quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has already thrown for 845 yards. The Huskies have also scored at least 30 points in their last three contests. CMU will have to continue to play aggressive on defense, with a lot of blitzing and man coverage, so Lynch will not have time to throw.

Last week we saw a different Ryan Radcliff then what we saw against the Spartans. He threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns against the Hawkeyes and will need to have a similar performance to beat NIU. The CMU offense had nice balance last week, moving the ball at will against Iowa in the first half. They could not finish in the redzone, as they had to settle for a lot of David Harman field goals. The Chippewas will have to convert in the redzone this week because the Huskies have the ability to put up a lot of points. Look for another high scoring game in this matchup, just like last year's game, which CMU won, 48-41. NIU also beat a BCS team last week, but Kansas is in their first year under new head coach Charlie Weis and they have lost 16 straight road games. CMU should have a ton of confidence coming into this game. Look for another late David Harman field goal to lead CMU to another road win.

Prediction: Central Michigan 44, Northern Illinois 41

Steve Livingston, Publisher

A week after both teams picked up wins over BCS teams, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois are looking to start their MAC campaigns off with a big win. CMU had one of their program's biggest wins in recent memory and definitely has momentum. However, Northern Illinois is going to be more focused on this game than Iowa was last week and is just as talented as Iowa. The Huskies lost to Iowa by one point on a neutral site four weeks ago. Both offenses are playing at a high level right now and each defense has performed better in recent weeks. As publicized as the performances of Jordan Lynch and Ryan Radcliff have been, I think that the matchups that determine this game will be the offensive lines versus the defensive lines. The Chippewas have an elite MAC offensive line and the Huskies have a very talented defensive line. NIU has a young offensive line and the Chippewas have struggled on the defensive front. Both teams have struggled with turnovers and have struggled to create turnovers. This will be another game where turnover margin is a huge factor in who comes away with the victory. Both offenses will move the ball and put up points, but Northern Illinois has a slightly better defense and is at home.

Prediction: Northern Illinois 41, Central Michigan 34

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