NIU vs. Temple: The Battle for Respect

What a roller coaster ride of a season so far!

First we don't have a quarterback, now we do in Chandler Harnish.

First we didn't have an offensive gameplan, now we have a full-fledged passing attack.

First don't have an offensive line, then four different running backs are averaging 6.0 ypc.

First our linebackers can't tackle, now they're returning interceptions for touchdowns.

Saturday is the true test for the Huskies.  Temple comes to town as the team to beat.  Believe it or not, but Coach Jerry Kill has not beaten a team with a winning record in his two years at Northern Illinois.  This can be his signature win.  This can be the feather in the cap of all NIU fans saying that they beat the Temple Owls, who are coming in at 4-1.

Maybe we'll meet again in Detroit for the MAC Championship, who knows.

How will the students react?  The Huskies will need a good home crowd to beat the Owls on Saturday.  Will we gain an entire new fanbase by continuing to win games this season?  I think so.

When the Huskies are on Defense

Almost every single player on Temple's offensive line is potentially an All-MAC player.  RB Bernard Pierce was hyped up to be Heisman candidate before the year.  He's out with an ankle injury, but 5'5" Matt Brown ran for 226 yds and 4 touchdowns.

Too bad they're going up to a wall that is our defensive line, led by The Corporal Jake Coffman.  These guys just haven't let up since shutting down Minnesota's rushing attack (102 yds).  Take out one long run by Alex Allen and we only give up less than 75 yds to the Akron Zips.

The Stud Sophomores at linebacker in Devon Butler and Tyrone Clark are finally feeling comfortable in their spots.  Alex Kube is coming around and we're finally getting another veteran in Pat Schiller back to add some depth.

Tommy Davis is getting better at FS and Mike Sobol is doing a fine job spelling Tracy Wilson for the time being.  CB Chris Smith is playing at an All-MAC level, even with a broken wrist.

Temple's quarterback Chester Stewart will be forced to make plays through the air.  Will he be able to lead this Owl team solely with his arm?  It's going to be tough, but that's what our defense is made to do.

When the Huskies are on Offense

The Owls are absolutely stacked with talent up and down the lineup.  DE Adrian Robinson and DT Muhammad Wilkerson are both All-MAC candidates on the defensive line.

Elijah Joseph and Amara Kamara (best name in the MAC) lead the extremely strong linebacking corps.

FS Jaiquawn Jarrett is the best pro prospect on the team and he will be all over the field.

The Owls have been vulnerable to the running game so far this season, as they rank only 89th in the nation.  They haven't even been doing a good job pressuring the quarterback this season (101st).

There's enough talent on this defense to be dangerous, but so far this season they've really underachieved for whatever reason.  The key for the Huskies on offense will be to have a balanced gameplan, but to focus mainly on the bread and butter of the run game.  The offense should be fine and be able to gain yards when needed, something I wasn't sure this offense could do two games ago.

Special Teams

James Nixon is the best kickoff returner in the MAC and Delano Green is the 2nd best punt returner.  The Huskies cannot afford to give those players the availability to make plays.  Brandon McManus is 7 of 10 in field goals, missing tries of 38 and 44 yards vs. Central Michigan.

Prediction

Temple provides a nice early-season challenge for the Huskies and I believe that the team will rise up and meet that challenge in a rabid Huskie Stadium on Saturday.  Bernard Pierce's health concerns me, as he represents so much of what Temple is able to do on offense.  I believe that the Huskies will shut Temple's running game ground enough, causing Chester Stewart to throw a few too many incompletions and interceptions.

The Huskies and their more balanced offense should be able to do more things against a Temple defense that has been suspect so far this season.

Home field will matter a ton, so let's pack Huskie Stadium for a win on Satuday!

Huskies 34-Temple 28

Who wins the game on Saturday?  Sound-off.

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