The University at Buffalo visits a reeling Northern Illinois team at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in DeKalb, Ill. Northern Illinois, six-time champion in the Mid-American Conference West, is 1-6. But UB is reeling, too, at 1-5. Northern Illinois is favored by 21.5 points.
Here are three questions on the Huskies with Jesse Severson, sportswriter for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.
1. How surprising is the 1-6 start and did anyone see this step-back coming?
Obviously, nobody in DeKalb expected the Huskies to be 1-6. Granted, most felt that NIU wouldn't go back to the 12-win type of team, but it's been more a matter of underachieving than being a bad team. I mean, when you have two triple overtime losses in the same season, it's just one of those years. They're probably a play here or there from only having one loss. The only game that they were blown out was at South Florida.
The coaches and players all stick to the company line of "We just live one-week life cycles," but it's amazing that Northern Illinois is one loss away from ending their streak of eight consecutive bowl appearances.
2. What do you see as QB Anthony Maddie's strengths? And Joel Bouagnon's numbers appear a bit down. What's going on with him?
Maddie's strength is pretty clearly his ability to run. Central Michigan did a good job of bottling up NIU's designed quarterback runs and that's why the Huskies' offense looked so bad for much of the game against the Chippewas. When he gets open lanes – like against Ball State and Western Michigan – the offense can be pretty explosive. As far as Bouagnon, it's been a consistency issue. He still has shown that he can bust off a big day – evident by his 153 yards at Ball State.
3. What do you see as the team's weaknesses or problem areas on defense?
Well, the secondary has been completely depleted from injuries. Junior Shawun Lurry, who had nine interceptions last year, got his first of the year on the first drive for Central Michigan – but landed awkwardly and is in concussion protocol. NIU coach Rod Carey said it looks like Lurry most likely won't play on Saturday. They also lost would-be starters Anthony Brooks and Albert Smalls due to injury. It hasn't been much better on the defensive line. They recently had to move former starting offensive lineman Lincoln Howard to the D-line to fix some holes caused by injury.
Coverage by Severson can be found here http://www.daily-chronicle.com/sports/ or @Jesse_Severson