Northern Illinois will play host to Kansas this weekend as the Jayhawks take their show on the road for the first time this season. The Huskies are coming off of a narrow victory over Army on the road a week ago and they sit 2-1 with their one loss coming to the Iowa Hawkeyes on a neutral field. Northern Illinois is facing a bit of a rebuild offensively after the loss of Chandler Harnish and several key pieces up front. Despite that, this group might have just as much potential longterm due to a more dual threat approach.
QB 6 Jordan Lynch (6-0, 216, Jr.-R)
Lynch will challenge the Kansas defense through the air and on the ground. These are some of the most difficult quarterbacks to prepare for in college football because they can beat you in multiple ways. In fact, lack of mobility is one of the gripes that Kansas fans have had regarding Dayne Crist. Lynch is averaging 200 yards per game through the air to go along with 100 yards per game on the ground. He keeps drives alive and he makes the NIU offense go. This is going to be a big challenge for Kansas, possibly more difficult to prepare for than Harnish a year ago. If Lynch is able to play to his norm, Kansas will have a hard time stopping the Huskies.
TB 23 Leighton Settle (5-9, 199, Jr.)
FB 47 Rob Sterling (5-10, 231, So.)
Settle is the only other player that has seen meaningful carries out of the NIU backfield. He averages just over 50 yards per contest and his per carry yardage sits at 4.4. That's almost three yards less per carry than Lynch. Lynch will hurt you more, but Settle is a good compliment and they will use him.
TE (Y) 87 Jason Schepler (6-2, 274, Sr.-R)
TE (U) 83 Luke Eakes (6-3, 250, So.-R)
Shepler is essentially a sixth offensive lineman and Eakes could probably be classified in that category as well. Shepler will see the field on a more regular basis and really is a key component to moving the chains in the NIU run game. During the offseason Charlie Weis talked about personnel groupings if a team tried to go big, that could happen this week.
LT 75 Tyler Loos (6-5, 282, So.-R)
LG 77 Jared Volk (6-3, 315, Jr.-R)
C 55 Andrew Ness (6-3, 286, Fr.-R)
RG 61 Aidan Conlon (6-3, 287, Fr.-R)
RT 79 Matt Krempel (6-5, 307, Jr.-R)
Every player on the offensive line is entering his first season as a full time starter. Some of these players have minimal experience period. It hasn't been a huge hindrance so far, but NIU doesn't seem to have the same explosion offensively that they had the past two seasons. The Kansas defensive line seemed to rise to the occasion last week and finally put up a decent fight. This is an opportunity to continue to gain confidence, but it will be on the road and Lynch will present some unique challenges that TCU could not.
WR (X) 1 Martel Moore (6-0, 183, Sr.)
WR (S) 22 Jamison Wells (5-11, 193, Jr.-R)
WR (H) 10 Tommylee Lewis (5-7, 155, So.)
WR (Z) 7 Perez Ashford (5-11, 182, Sr.)
Moore is the most often targets and Lewis is a dangerous playmaker primarily in the return game. These two account for over half of the wideout production in the passing game and if you add Ashford to the mix it's over three quarters of the production. Lynch has a few targets he likes everybody else is secondary. Not all that unusual for a college team but in general I wouldn't call this a dynamic group, but the quarterback creates opportunities.
Overall the Huskies offensive attack has been middle of the pack to date. They really struggled against Iowa to open the season but they have recovered against UT Martin and Army. Obviously UT Martin and Army aren't Iowa, so the question is which NIU team is the one that we'll see against Kansas? I guess some of that depends on how you would evaluate the Kansas defense at this point in time, but there is a nice opportunity sitting out in front of the Kansas defense if they can carry forward some of the momentum from last week.