I was in DeKalb, Ill., the last time Akron traveled there to face the Huskies.
Garrett Wolfe trampled all over Charlie Frye's Zips for a 49-19 beatdown. The following year, Akron paid the Huskies back ten-fold with a last-second Luke Getsy-to-Domenik Hixon miracle Hail Mary for the MAC Championship.
The Huskies have been longing for a MAC crown since. Akron, meanwhile, went from Cinderella to cellar-dwellers.
As I said in an interview with NPR this week, Akron has a horrible record, but I would never count the team out from week to week. With a youthful, hungry core, the Zips are still a dangerous team.
Just not consistently dangerous. NIU isn't particularly consistent, either. But Jerry Kill's team has been better on its worst day this season than Akron on its best.
NIU wins its games in the trenches. It has averaged about 80 yards more per game in rushing yards than its opponents. Me'co Brown and Chad Spann have comprised a two-man run attack that is certainly the MAC's strongest. Both average 5.3 yards per carry. The run defense, meanwhile, held Miami to a negative 13 rush yards last week.
The other side of the coin is that the Huskies' pass offense and pass defense are among the MAC's least productive. Starter Chandler Harnish is questionable for Saturday's noon kickoff with a knee injury. The other option is an athletic sophomore DeMarcus Grady. The pass defense, meanwhile, gave up 348 passing yards to Miami last week.
News and notes...
Akron is a 12-point underdog. The over-under is 42. (The line for the 2005 MAC Championship, by the way, was NIU minus 14.)
Here is Tom Gaffney's preview for the ABJ.
Here is another good game breakdown from the Aurora Beacon-News.
Kill told the college newspaper at NIU that his team will have to throw more than 10 times to beat Akron. Grady only made 10 pass attempts last week against Miami.
Here is what I wrote about the game on July 3, when 68 percent of readers said Akron would win.
Dashan Miller was this week's MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week for his 191 yards worth of kickoff return against Syracuse.
If Miami can throw for 348 yards, then so can Patrick Nicely. This could be his welcome-to-the-spotlight party. To me, this game comes down to whether Akron can keep up the scoring through the air. A mistake-free game from Nicely will put the Zips in position to win.
Akron 21, Northern Illinois 24
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