1. Ohio State must avenge our brothers!
NIU plays in the MAC, which boasts a lot of Ohio Schools. Last year, NIU wailed on our Ohio brethren, beating Toledo, Ohio U, Kent State Miami of Ohio, and Bowling Green last year. That’s right, NIU ran the table against Ohio teams last year. So it’s up to Ohio to avenge this travesty against Ohio football!
2. It’s Jerry Kill’s old stomping grounds.
I’ve spent too long trying to analogize the Big Ten with the various kingdoms Game of Thrones in an effort to call Jerry Kill the Warden of the North. It’s hard, because if Jerry Kill is in Winterfell, what does that make Columbus? King’s Landing? I’m not sure I love likening my hometown to the bastion of corruption and bloodshed that is the capital city of Westerosi. (Have I lost you yet? What’s the crossover between Ohio State sports fans and Game of Thrones fans?)
Jerry Kill, who commands the very cold, very formidable men of the Minnesota Gophers, and who nearly ruined Ohio State’s perfect season last year, coached at NIU from 2008 to 2010. Kill had been the head coach of Southern Illinois University, but NIU was his first FBS head coaching gig. Kill took the Huskies to three straight bowl games (although he left before the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl).
3. Jordan Lynch was the Denard Robinson of NIU.
Much of NIU’s recent success has been because of breakout QB Jordan Lynch. Lynch played all four years for the Huskies, but his last two were simply stellar. Lynch threw for 6000 yards and ran for 2700 yards in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and scored about 20 touchdowns per season.
Lynch went undrafted, despite being a Heisman finalist in 2013. The Chicago Bears signed him as a running back, presumably looking make Lynch the next Denard Robinson-style last-ditch-everyone-else-is-hurt running back. Lynch was released in August, 2014, before the season began. He currently is under contract with the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL.
4. Where’s DeKalb?
NIU is located in DeKalb, Illinois, a city in the (shocker) northern part of Illinois. It’s a pure college town, NIU is the largest employer in the city, and there’s not much else there. The population is only about 44,000 people.
DeKalb does have one claim to fame: it’s Cindy Crawford’s hometown. So, thanks for that, DeKalb!
5. NIU loves to run.
Obviously stats for NIU have to be taken with a big grain of salt, because they play in the MAC against teams like Western Michigan and Central Michigan. But some stats are amazing no matter who you play. NIU had two backs who put up 900 yards each in 2014. That’s unbelievable running output, especially when there was another back who had over 600 yards of his own. NIU was actually 17th overall last season in rushing yards. The Huskies running stats are even comparable to what Elliott and Barrett put up last year, and Ohio State had a couple extra games to juke the stats with. Watch out for this running game when the Huskies come to town in September.
6. NIU predates OSU.
Ohio State was founded in 1870. By that time, NIU was a teenager, having been founded 13 years earlier, in 1857. Ohio State has more students, has more alumni, is larger geographically and is basically better in every way than NIU, but it’s not older. You win this one, Huskies! (But you probably won't win the game.)