The first preseason magazines previewing the 2013 football season have started to hit the shelves and Northern Illinois is featured in Lindy’s Sports College Football Preview, Athlon Sports College Football Magazine and The Sporting News College Football Yearbook, as well as on Phil Steele’s website in advance of the release of his magazine.
After posting its third straight 11-plus win season, winning its second consecutive Mid-American Conference title, and topping it off by earning the first Bowl Championship Series bid by a MAC team, Northern Illinois has established itself as one of the winningest programs in the country.
Coming off a 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl, in which the Huskies trailed just 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Northern Illinois finished the 2012 campaign ranked in the final Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls for the first time. NIU finished the season ranked 22nd by the writers who vote in the AP poll, and came in at No. 24 in the coaches’ final rankings.
Led by one of the top quarterbacks in the country in dual threat senior Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel HS), the Huskies return 13 starters on offense and defense for 2013. In addition to Lynch, a second-team AP All-American who finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting and broke 20 school, conference and NCAA records in his first year as a starter, NIU leading tackler Jimmie Ward (Mobile, Ala./Davidson HS) and the entire Huskie offensive line are back to defend the MAC title.
Even with its final Top 25 ranking and Lynch’s return, Northern Illinois did not crack any of the publications’ preseason Top 25. The Sporting News only ranked 25 teams and left NIU out, while Phil Steele has Northern Illinois at No. 26 on the rankings released this week. The Huskies checked in at No. 27 on Lindy’s 1-125 listing, in between Wisconsin and Northwestern, while Athlon has NIU at No. 44.
All three magazines project Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game with TSN and Athlon going with Bowling Green as the MAC East champ, while Lindy’s tabs Ohio.
Lynch is pictured on the cover of The Sporting News’ regional issue, along with Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Everett Golson, who will not be suiting up for Notre Dame this fall.
TSN projects NIU and Bowling Green to win the West and East divisions, respectively, and has Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Sporting News rates Lynch as the “Best Passing QB”and “Best Running QB” in the MAC, and calls him the Best Interview. The magazine also lists Huskie Stadium, where Northern Illinois has won 21 straight games and has not lost a home game since 2009, as the “Most Intimidating Stadium” in the league.
Four Huskies – Lynch, offensive tackle Tyler Loos (Sterling, Ill./Sterling HS), Ward and defensive end Joe Windsor (Kearney, Mo./Kearney HS) make The Sporting News’ preseason All-MAC team. While Phil Steele’s Magazine has not hit newsstands yet, the accompanying website puts 13 Huskies on its four all-league squads, including Lynch, Loos and Ward on the first team. In its preseason rankings, Steele has the Huskies at No. 26, between No. 25 Miami (Fla.) and No. 27 Arizona State.
Lindy’s has five NIU players on its All-MAC first team and lists Lynch as the league’s probable MVP. It also calls Lynch the “Best Scrambler” and “Coolest in the Clutch” while Loos is the “Best Pass Blocker” and receiver/return man Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer HS) is listed as the MAC’s “Special Teams Demon.” Lindy’s has NIU’s games at Iowa (Aug. 31), at Purdue (Sept. 28), versus Ball State (Nov. 13) and at Toledo (Nov. 20) as the biggest MAC games of the respective weeks.
Athlon lists Lynch on its “next tier” of Heisman contenders and predicts the Huskies will go 10-3 overall and 7-1 in the MAC. Athlon includes offensive tackle Ryan Brown (Elburn, Ill./St. Charles North HS) with Lynch and Ward on its preseason All-MAC first team with five Huskies on its second team.
In its 2013 Unit Rankings, the magazine says that NIU’s quarterback and offensive line units are the best in the league, and has the Huskies’ defensive line and linebackers both at No. 4 with the secondary fifth. NIU’s running backs are ranked as the seventh-best group in the league while the wide receivers/tight ends are sixth. On the NIU team page, an opposing MAC assistant coach mentions the Huskies’ depth and is anonymously quoted: “They are the gold standard program for our league.”
NIU plays five home games in 2013, beginning Sept. 21 versus Eastern Illinois.
The new Huskieland Plan, which includes a ticket to all five home games (sections A and G) and $50 in Doggie Dollars good for parking and/or concessions, is just $50. For tickets, call (815) 753-1923.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.