Only about a 30-minute drive from the Windy City, Northwestern portrays itself to be Chicago’s Big Ten team. If that is the case, then perhaps Northern Illinois should start making a claim to be Chicago’s MAC team. This weekend the two schools will meet each other on the field for just the eighth time in the series history. Northern Illinois could be ready to score its first victory in the series.
Northwestern is coming off a home loss to California, in which all of the weaknesses the Wildcats have this season were completely exposed. The lack of depth and inconsistent quarterback play doomed Pat Fitzgerald‘s team. Northwestern put up a fight late in the game, but only after digging a 31-7 hole at home against a team that failed to reach the postseason last year. The offense managed just 354 yards against a team that finished next to last in all of FBS football (123rd) in total defense in 2013. Northwestern can either take its lumps and improve from this, or show that what was seen in week one is a true testament to what Northwestern football may be in 2014.
NIU may have opened against a cupcake in week one (thumping Presbyterian 55-3), but the Huskies showed signs of being able to move on in the post-Jordan Lynch era with the same basic formula and identity. The Huskies wasted no time in establishing dominance over an inferior opponent, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and owning a 34-0 lead at the half. Northern Illinois churned out 424 rushing yards as a team, and will look to wear down Northwestern on the ground as well.
Northwestern leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1975, with a record of 6-0-1. The lone tie came in 1987. The two schools have faced each other just twice since 1991 (2000, 2005). With the Big Ten trying to get its members to shy away from scheduling games against programs from the MAC, games between the two schools may be few and far between for years. That may be why winning this game would be critical for a program like Northern Illinois. There are no future game son the schedule between these two schools, although Northwestern does have future dates against FCS schools Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Illinois State.
Many seem to have fallen on the Northwestern bandwagon in recent years. After this weekend, they may be found jumping off the bandwagon as it bursts into flames and goes crashing off the highway.