It has been a long, tumultuous last couple weeks for the NIU Huskies, but now they're back playing football on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium for one last hurrah.
Fresno Offense vs. NIU Defense
The Bulldogs are going to run a pretty balanced offense that is more run-based than anything else. RB Robbie Rouse (5'7" 185) is supposedly going to start after suffering a rib injury and a broken hand late in the season. He's a speedy little scat back and is one of the leaders in the nation in ypg when he's healthy.
Ryan Colbourn has also been a fairly efficient passer all season long. On the season he's thrown for 2,529 yds with a 61.8 completion % and a 21-9 TD ratio. In terms of passing efficiency, he is 29th in the nation. It doesn't seem like the passing game can be relied on too heavily, as the Bulldogs are 99th in the nation in 3rd down completions.
Fresno likes to spread the ball around, but Colbourn's main target is Jamel Hamler (6'2" 195) who has 47 receptions for 725 yds and 5 TDs.
Gameplan: Stop the run, first and foremost. Get pressure on Colbourn and try to force the turnover. Oh, and don't give up the big play or any tipped passes to the other team.
NIU Offense vs. Fresno Defense
Fresno's defense can be summed up in one word: PRESSURE. DE Chris Carter (6'2" 245) was named the WAC defensive player of the year after accumulating 55 tackles, 16 TFL and 10 sacks on the season. What a beast. DT Logan Harrell also has 14 TFL and 10.5 sacks to his own credit.
Other than that, there's not too much to expand on, other than the fact that their second leading tackler Kyle Knox will be staying at home in Fresno due to a suspension.
FS Phillip Thomas (6'1" 205) is their best player in the seacondary, as he has 8 PBU and 3 INTs on the season.
Gameplan: Quick passes, screens would work against the ridiculous pass rush. Running right at the defense might work as well. Chandler Harnish just needs to get rid of the ball faster than he usually does.
All you need to know is that Fresno's Kevin Goessling runs circles around whatever NIU is bringing to kick field goals on Saturday.
Pat HIll has been coach at Fresno State for 13 years. Tom Matukewicz was just handed the head coaching job and Kill also took both coordinators with him. Even though the loss of Limegrover is a plus, I still have to give the advantage to Fresno State in this one.
Personally, I think this is going to be one heck of a shootout between two offensive minded teams. Both defenses aren't all that great, but what sets NIU apart is the fact that they have a much better turnover margin in this one (+10), while Fresno can't seem to hold on to the ball as they are -10 with 14 fumbles on the season. The Huskies will make more big plays in this one and show the winners mentality displayed in pretty much every game outside the MAC Championship.
Huskies 33, Fresno State 31