What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Mike at Red And Black Attack, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Northern Illinois.
1) Do you get the sense from NIU's coaches or players that this is a game that means a little bit extra for them? Is this a win that they want to get just because they want to equal or better last year's accomplishments, or is it a win that would mean a little more because of the game last year?
It's really a combination of both things. Where does the team go from a BCS game appearance? They have to beat a team like Iowa this year. What did they hear during the entire bowl preparation? That they lost to a bad 4-8 Iowa team and did not deserve the opportunity to reach the Orange Bowl. If it's deja vu this year the Huskies may not be so lucky and get snubbed in the BCS process. It's better for a team to get hype early by starting off undefeated and that's what the Huskies are looking to do on Saturday in a high-profile game against a Big 10 opponent. The team and the fanbase really needs this win to get energized for the 2013 season. It's annoying as hell to lose games like this that we "should" win because of the lack of respect this team gets a majority of the time. Plus last year the team had an entire new offensive line and a new starter at QB. A win would only make sense this year.
2) What can you tell us about NIU's new coach, Rod Carey? Do you anticipate that much will change under him, versus under Doeren? Obviously, this is a tricky question to answer since NIU hasn't yet played a game under Carey, but has he said anything that gives you some idea about how things might be different with him?
He seems like a no-BS type of coach, which is pretty similar to what Doeren brought to the table. As a younger coach, he's still learning but seems to have complete control of things in his young career. It will be interesting to see the continuity on the offensive side of things. The best thing about Carey is that he's going to be around for a while, rather than Jerry Kill (3 years) or Dave Doeren (2 years) bouncing for BCS offers right away. There hasn't been that homegrown feel in a head coach since the good 'ol Joe Novak days of the early 2000's.
3) On a related note, I'm a fan of a team that's had two football coaches for my entire life. NIU has had... a few more than that. How do you feel about that? Are you numb to all the coaching turnover at this point? Do you enjoy the process of learning about new coaches and discovering their tics and their habits?
It's bit annoying to see coaches leave, but at least they are jumping to big-time schools and it's more of a financial thing than anything. It's interesting to see what each coach brings to the table and really get a feel on their coaching style. For example, Coach Kill was a bit of a diva and did strange things like bury good players for whatever reason. In all honesty, writing about him was the most fun I've ever had because some of the things he did during his regime were just ridiculous. Dave Doeren righted the ship somehow and brought home two straight MAC Championships, one bowl win and a BCS appearance. There was less controversy with Doeren but I loved the win totals. Hopefully the success continues with Carey and that Carey stays a lot longer than his two previous successors.
4) We know who Jordan Lynch is we're duly terrified of what he might be able to do on Saturday, but tell us about a few more players we should know on NIU. Who's Lynch's most dangerous receiver? Which defensive players are most apt to wreak havoc on Iowa's offense?
WR Tommylee Lewis is a beast. He's made his name on kickoff returns (including 2 in one game against Toledo his freshman year) but really stepped up to be the 2nd leading receiver last year and one of the few players that did anything against FSU in the Orange Bowl. I'm just salivating writing about him. He's been a little banged up in camp but definitely probably for Iowa.
On defense, the safety combo of Jimmie Ward and Dechane Durante is pretty scary. Ward is a big-time NFL prospect and does everything on defense: make big hits, breaking up passes. He seems to be involved in every single play. Durante will just kill you with his tackling ability, but he was banged up last year. I can't wait to finally see these two players back on the field together as upperclassmen. Secondary is definitely the strength of the defense for the Huskies.
5) What's your goal (or your hope) for this NIU team? A MAC Championship? Another 12-13 win season? A trip back to a BCS bowl?
My hope, as it has been since the 2007 season when we went 2-10, is an undefeated season. It seems less crazy to predict that this season than any other, so why not? Let's get back to the BCS.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
It's not going to be a pretty game on the road for the Huskies. There may not be much scoring in the first half of this game but eventually I believe that NIU's offensive experience will get it together and the defense will make a stop or two. It'll be a slugfest, but I see NIU overcoming in a 20-17 outcome.
Thanks for being a good sport, Mike. You can check out Mike and the rest of the RABA crew at Red And Black Attack. You can also follow Mike on Twitter at @IkeReese and RABA on Twitter at @RABAttack. The Iowa-Northern Illinois game is in Iowa City on Saturday, August 31, and is scheduled to start at 2:30 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.