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A sneak preview of NIU's 2010 Non-Conference Schedule

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OOC scheduling has been a topic of much debate these past few years. When is a BCS team going to visit DeKalb? Why are we playing these Soldier Field "home games"? Why are we scheduling these crapola I-AA opponents?

Well, Kansas will be coming to Dekalb in 2012. We play the Soldier Field games to generate $$$$ which is so valuable in these times especially with a school like ours. The next SF game will be against Wisconsin in 2011 and it's looking like Iowa in 2012, unless Notre Dame swoops in for the kill.

That's all fine and dandy, but what about NOW? Spring Practice is going to start up March 23rd and the Kill-isms will be out in full-force. "One game at a time" will start ringing through our ears ad nauseum.

To break down the schedule, we are going to take the Sagarin ranking of these teams from 2009 and also insert info about how many starters will be returning in 2010 provided by Phil Steele. I'm not counting FCS/I-AA teams in the rankings, because our new philosophy is to schedule patsies and then steamroll them as a break in the non-conf (excl. SIU 2007, WIU 2002).

2010

66 Iowa State (7-6)

Returning Starters: O: 8 / D: 4 / ST: 2 / Total: 14

148 North Dakota (6-5)

94 Illinois (3-9)

Returning Starters: O: 5 / D: 7 / ST: 1 / Total: 13

64 Minnesota (6-7)

Returning Starters: O: 9 / D: 2 / ST: 1 / Total: 12

Avg Sagarin: 75

Initial thoughts

Even though all 3 of these games will be on the road, it's not like we have to travel very far to get to any of these stadiums (5 hrs, 3 hrs, 6.5 hrs). It's not like we're facing any unbeatable force either. All of these teams will have trouble this year breaking the top-50, much less the top-60.

Iowa State's defense was REALLY BAD last year. We're talking 99th in ypg, 106th DFEI & 110th S&P. The fact that they lose so much from that horrible defense could be a good thing for them, but most likely it's a bad thing. If we develop even something resembling an offense this offseason, we should cut through them like butter.

Illinois loses whatever semblance of an offense (aka Rejus Benn) they had with only 5 starters returning. Their 91st ranked defense might be a little better, but this team is also coached by Ron Zook. Last-ditch efforts to bring in new coordinators on both sides of the ball is going to prove costly as systems take time to implement.

Minnesota's defense was actually their strength (compared to their offense) last year, but they will be returning only 2 (TWO!) starters on that side of the ball in 2010. On offense they were 109th in the nation in ypg, so they dumped their offensive coordinator. Their new hire? Jeff Horton, the same guy that was QB coach for Wisconsin when we sacked Brooks Bollinger 10 times as the refs stole the game away from us back in 2002. This is their 4th OC in 4 years, so yeah they may have some issues, especially with WR Eric Decker gone.

Comparison to previous years

After the jump, we'll compare 2010's non-conference schedule to those of the past and see how they stack up.

2002 (8-4)

42 Wake Forest (7-6) W

34 South Florida (9-2) L

32 Wisconsin (8-6) L

67 Western Illinois (11-2) L

Avg Sagarin: 36

NIU's final ranking: 55th

2003 (10-2)

10 Maryland (10-3) W

198 Tennessee Tech (2-9) W

48 Alabama (4-9) W

106 Iowa State (2-10) W

Avg Sagarin: 55

NIU's final ranking: 47th

2004 (9-3)

47 Maryland (5-6) L

89 Southern Illinois (10-2) W

52 Iowa State (7-5) L

Avg Sagarin: 50

NIU's final ranking: 69th

2005 (7-5)

16 Michigan (7-5) L

34 Northwestern (7-5) L

197 Tennessee Tech (4-7) W

Avg Sagarin: 25

NIU's final ranking: 60th

2006 (7-6)

4 Ohio State (12-1) L

211 Indiana State (1-10) W

51 Iowa (6-7) L

Avg Sagarin: 28

NIU's final ranking: 85th

2007 (2-10)

79 Iowa (6-6) L

76 Southern Illinois (12-2) L

175 Idaho (1-11) W

36 Wisconsin (9-4) L

Avg Sagarin: 97

NIU's final ranking: 150th

2008 (6-7)

75 Minnesota (7-6) L

233 Indiana State (0-12) W

58 Tennessee (5-7) L

51 Navy (8-5) L

Avg Sagarin: 62

NIU's final ranking: 100th

2009 (7-6)

23 Wisconsin (10-3) L

208 Western Illinois (1-10) W

75 Purdue (5-7) W

85 Idaho (8-5) L

Avg Sagarin: 61

NIU's final ranking: 95th

2010's avg. Sagarin ranking of 75 is the lowest with the exception of 2007's 97th. NIU was just so bad that year that if we could have beaten Iowa if we even had a decent team. The difference between that year and this year is the fact that we won't be playing any top-50 or even top-60 teams it seems like. Wisconsin was pretty tough that year at 36th and they demolished us.

Is this NIU's easiest non-conf schedule ever? I'd be worried if we were facing a tough team like 2003 Maryland on the road, but we're not this year. Even though all the games are on the road, all of them are schools only a state or two away. The possibility is there to beat all of these teams. That is, if this team can play up to their expectations.

And if we can find a quarterback...and a running back...and an offensive line...but hey that's what Spring Practice is for, right!