2011 Record: (11-3, 7-1 in MAC)
Head Coach: Dave Doeren (11-3 in first year at NIU)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 Season GoDaddy.com Bowl: Beat Arkansas St 38-20
Big Name Opponents: 9/1 vs Iowa, 9/22 vs Kansas
Stat to Cheer: 104 rushing plays of 10 yards or more (7th in Nation)
Stat to Fear: opponents scored on 88.71% of trips to red zone (11th in MAC, 110th in Nation)
Phil Steele’s Returning Starters: (Offense: 4; Defense: 8; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: DE Sean Progar (52 tackles, 5.5 sacks)), S Jimmie Ward (100 tackles), CB Rashaan Melvin (78 tackles, 3 INT), DE Alan Baxter (5.5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: WR Martel Moore (47 rec, 7 TD), WR Perez Ashford (47 rec, 3 TD), OG Logan Pegram
Dave Doeren filled in nicely for Jerry Kill in his first season finishing 11-3 in his debut season. Doeren inherited an experienced team (ranked as 26th most experienced in FBS by Phil Steele in 2011) and also had a dynamic QB in Chandler Harnish. This year will be a test for Doeren as Steele ranks this team as the 113th most experienced team in the FBS and that ranks them dead last in the MAC.
In addition to the lack of experience, NIU also plays in the highly competitive MAC West. QB Jordan Lynch looks like he could be a player but replacing Harnish is going to be a very tough task. The good news is that after their opener against Iowa, the schedule is very favorable with their toughest games coming in late October or later (WMU, Toledo). They also miss Ohio, Bowling Green, Kent State and Miami (OH) from the MAC East and those are the top four programs in the East.
2012 Prediction: 8-4
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