Akron-N. Illinois Preview
After cracking the Top 25 for the first time this season, Northern Illinois appears to be in good shape to extend the longest current home winning streak in the FBS by prolonging Akron's futility on the road.
Looking for a 23rd straight home victory, the No. 23 Huskies try to continue their Mid-American Conference dominance by handing the Zips a 30th consecutive road defeat Saturday.
Northern Illinois (5-0, 1-0) made its return to the rankings this week after bursting onto the national scene in 2012 when it earned a stunning berth in the Orange Bowl. The Huskies finished the season 22nd in the poll after their loss to Florida State.
While many observers felt Northern Illinois had no business playing in a BCS bowl, the Huskies have picked up where they left off this season, getting off to an undefeated start despite trailing in all five games. The program is off to its best start since it was 7-0 in 2003.
Perhaps more importantly, Northern Illinois is the first MAC team to beat two Big Ten schools in a season, winning 30-27 at Iowa on Aug. 31 and 55-24 at Purdue on Sept. 28.
Paced by quarterback Jordan Lynch, the Huskies rank fifth in the FBS with 303.4 rushing yards per game, are 12th with 529.6 total yards and tied for 16th with 42.2 points.
They also understand that their success has made them a marked opponent.
"We know we have a target on our back and teams are gunning for us," said Lynch, who's thrown for 1,113 yards with 12 touchdowns and rushed for 533 with three scores.
Lynch totaled 338 yards and Cameron Stingily rushed for 266 and two touchdowns as NIU posted its FBS-leading 18th straight victory over a conference opponent, 38-24 at Kent State last Saturday. The Huskies' 698 yards were the third most in school history and their 454 on the ground were eighth.
"That's a good football team, and that's a good offense," Kent State coach Paul Haynes said. "They move the ball on a lot of people."
Stingily has rushed for 576 yards and averages 5.9 per carry, but he could face disciplinary action after reportedly being arrested Sunday for failing to appear in court for a prior traffic offense.
Regardless of who is on the field, the Huskies should have a good chance to defeat an Akron team that hasn't won away from home since Oct. 18, 2008.
Another loss Saturday would result in the Zips equaling the second-longest road slide in the nation since 1980, matching Kansas State's 30-game skid Nov. 9, 1985-Nov. 2, 1991.
Akron (1-5, 0-2) has also lost 18 straight MAC contests.
The Zips nearly pulled off a major upset in their 28-24 defeat at then-No. 11 Michigan on Sept. 14, but they've been outscored 74-17 in league losses to Bowling Green and Ohio in the past two games.
Despite allowing 29.8 points and 479.4 yards a contest, NIU's 17 sacks are tied for seventh most in the FBS - one more than the Zips' total. The Huskies' strong pass rush could prove problematic for Akron, as the Zips' Kyle Pohl was sacked eight times in a 43-3 loss to Ohio on Saturday.
The Huskies have outscored Akron 114-31 during a three-game series winning streak that started after the Zips' 31-30 victory over NIU in the 2005 MAC championship game.
Lynch threw for 223 yards with two TDs and ran for 131 and two more scores in a 37-7 win at Akron on Oct. 20.