Key Matchups: Army vs. Northern Illinois

The second game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 161, 0-1) and the Mid-American Conference Northern Illinois Huskies (Sagarin 56, 1-1.) The all-time series tied 1-1, but the Huskies thrashed Army in the season opener last year 49-26, with 20 of Army's points coming in the fourth quarter.

Background
The second game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 161, 0-1) and the Mid-American Conference Northern Illinois Huskies (Sagarin 56, 1-1.) The all-time series tied 1-1, but the Huskies thrashed Army in the season opener last year 49-26, with 20 of Army's points coming in the fourth quarter. Northern Illinois is coming off an 11 win season with a bowl victory over Arkansas State. They lost their first game of the season to Iowa 18-17 in a late game comeback by Iowa, and easily handled Tennessee-Martin last week. Army returns to Michie after one of their worst losses in recent history.

Last Week
In San Diego - Lack of intensity and execution is the best way to describe Army's performance in San Diego. The pre-game tailgate was about the only thing that went right for Army on a beautiful afternoon in San Diego.

From The Opening kick-off, the Cadets were thoroughly dominated by the Aztecs. Army had tremendous difficulty stopping the SDSU offense as they gained 443 total yards. A lingering question coming into the game would be the return of the undersized line – would Army be any bigger and would they have any ability to stop the run. The answer was No and No. Aztec Running Backs Adam Muema and Walter Kazee averaged nearly 7 yards per rush as the team rushed for a total of 228 yards. The Army Linebackers did the brunt of the tackling as the Army defensive line was blown off the ball. Of course, this was no surprise as Army has absolutely no size on the defensive front. We predicted that if Army were unable to stop the run in this game, they would have a long afternoon. Unfortunately, Coach Ellerson and his staff still haven't figured out how to stop the run with 240 pound defensive linemen, and we dare say it is unlikely they ever will. Meanwhile, SDSU QB Ryan Katz was 14 of 21 for 215 yards passing and a touchdown.

Army's offense was inept. The Aztecs took away Trent Steelman's run and forced him to pitch the ball. Army was able to move the ball between the 20s, but aside from a single drive in the second half, they were completely contained. Army rushed for 282 yards and Raymond Maples looked good gaining 107 yards on 19 carries. The slot back sweep was the only play that was consistently effective. The fullbacks did little and Steelman was held to 3 yards rushing. Steelman fumbled 3 times and lost the ball once. Backup center Will Wilson could have been the source of the ball handling issues, although to be fair, Steelman has had problems handling the snaps no matter who has played center these last two seasons, and the coaching staff seems unable to address the problem. Steelman was 3 for 8 for 50 yards and had 2 interceptions. Both of his interceptions were so poorly thrown they were downright laughable. To the casual observer, it looks as if his arm is significantly worse than when he first arrived at West Point - he had a difficult time throwing the ball further than 10 yards - and it would not be a stretch to conclude that there is something physically wrong with his arm. In general, he looked so rattled and indecisive you would have thought he was playing in the first game of his career. If you were watching Army play for the first time, you would never believe he was in his fourth season as the starter.

In Dekalb, Jordan Lynch ran for 3 touchdowns and threw for another to beat Tennessee-Martin 35-7. Tennessee-Martin beat Memphis in Week 1. Lynch ran for scores of 1, 32 and 4 yards and had a 31-yard TD pass to Martel Moore. Leighton Settle ran for 106 yards and Lynch 60 as the Huskies amassed total 427 yards. Tennessee-Martin scored early in the fourth quarter against the second team defense.

What to look for?
Well, let's put it this way…we have taken the rose-colored glasses off this week, and we are done giving Ellerson the benefit of the doubt whether he can get this program moving in the right direction again. We saw a thoroughly disappointing and unimpressive performance. We saw nothing that gives us hope that this season is going to go any better than last year's. All we saw were the exact same problems and deficiencies that sent this team spiraling down to a 3-9 record last year. We will need to see something before we believe in this team and this coaching staff again.

If Army's performance last Saturday was any indication of this team's ability, look for a big second loss of the season. The Huskies are the favorite to win the MAC this year. Their offense is very good as Jordan Lynch is a very capable and versatile player. This team has a good sized front line and fast receivers. Their defense is stout as they have only allowed an average of 270 yards in their first two games.

Army would significantly improve their chances if they were able to eliminate their turnovers and control the ball for 35+ minutes. They must create some turnovers and get to Lynch before he is able to throw. Quite honestly, it seems like every single game we find ourselves talking about Army needing to cut down on turnovers and control the clock. Unfortunately, the fumbled snaps just continue to happen no matter who they are playing, and the D-line continues to get pushed around by everyone. We are mindful that after a horrible opening game loss last season, Army followed that up with some outstanding efforts at home against SDSU and Northwestern. We would encourage you not to bet on that happening again.

Who is favored?
Northern Illinois is a 3 Point Favorite.

Final Score – Northern Illinois 42 – Army 6

Game will be shown on CBS College Sports Network.

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