NIU Huskies vs EIU Panthers Preview

Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passes the ball during the first half against San Diego State. - Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports / August 31, 2013

Preview of the Northern Illinois Huskies taking on the Eastern Illinois Panthers this saturday in Huskie Stadium.

This Saturday the Northern Illinois Huskies will be taking on the Eastern Illinois Panthers at 6 PM in what should be a nearly sold out Huskie Stadium in Dekalb, IL. Eastern Illinois should be a pushover team, right? They're what? FCS? Formally I-AA? They can't match up to the Huskies, can they? Yes they can.

The season so far

Sat, Aug 31 1-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 7 2-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 14 3-0 (0-0)

So far it's been nothing but domination for the Eastern Illinois Panthers this season. They racked up 533 yds of offense vs SDSU but the biggest thing they did that game was force 5 INTs. Against SIU, it was an offensive shootout with EIU racking up 622 yds and 440 in the air vs SIU's 503 yds of offense. Illinois State was just a straight beatdown.

In terms of rankings, EIU comes in at #8 in the Sports Network Poll and #10 in the coaches poll for FCS schools.

Coaching

Head coach Dino Babers was WRs coach at Baylor from 2008-11 before he was hired on as head coach of Eastern Illinois in 2012. His time at Baylor were the four years that Robert Griffin III of Redskins fame played for the Bears. Think wide-open offense scoring up and down the field. This is what Babers brings to the table.

Offense

EIU has the best offense in the FCS this season averaging 631 ypg and 431 ypg through the air.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Remember that name. You may see him in the NFL one day. Garoppolo leads the FBS with 1,281 yds already this season, along with 14 TDs. Against Illinois State, he threw for 480 yds and a school-record seven touchdowns.

Think of the great QBs that Eastern has had through their history: Sean Payton, Tony Romo. This guy may be better than both of those guys. Urban Meyer thinks so while looking at SDSU tape:

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer didn't mention names when he called Garoppolo "one of the best quarterbacks I've ever seen'' after noticing No. 10 on film preparing for San Diego State, Eastern's season-opening opponent.

WR Erik Lora - Garoppolo's favorite target this season with 31 catches for 409 yds and 6 TDs. He's a speedy 5'11 190 lb slot type that can really get down the field and make a bunch of catches in space. He has 10+ catches in each game this season. He's lauded as one of the best FCS players in the nation.

LG Collin Seibert - Named to the preseason All-OVC team, this 6'4" 277 lb junior has been a starter since his freshman year on the OL.

Defense

As good as the Panthers are on offense, they are pretty much the opposite on defense. They are 85th in the nation in total defense giving up 445 ypg and also are 102nd in passing yds allowed with 296 ypg given up through the air.

DE Pat Wertz - The 6'4" 254 lb preseason All-OVC selection has 13 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks so far this season for the Panthers.

FS Nick Beard - The preseason all-OVC selection has had a quiet season for the Panthers so far with 12 tackles but has to be accounted for on every play.

Special Teams

K Cameron Berra - Berra was 5-5 past 40 yds last season with a range of 44 yds.

Strategy

Well let's just say the Huskies have to do better than they did against Idaho on the defensive end giving up 442 total yds and 251 yds through the air. NIU will be up for this one as it is the first home game of the season (finally!) and the scare vs Idaho was a bit of a wakeup call for this Huskie team. The Huskies don't have to travel and should be up for a near-full stadium vs an in-state rival.

The secondary is still the best part of our defense and that's a good thing. They will have to limit their mistakes against the EIU Panthers offense while getting in some pressure from the D-Line like last week.

On offense, this thing is going to be a shootout and NIU definitely has the talent advantage against an FCS school like EIU. They should have more depth and should be able to penetrate the Panthers on defense and have much more depth throughout the game.

I'm going to take the Huskies in this one, 48-28

Huskie fans, what are your predictions for this one?

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