Northern Illinois Heads to Rocky Top

The NIU Huskies are receiving a $750,000 payout to travel to Rocky Top on Saturday night. The icing on the cake for Northern would be to walk away from Knoxville with their biggest victory of the season.

If Northern Illinois (2-2) has to play a SEC team, the timing couldn't be better to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols (1-3) are a team in disarray following losses to UCLA, Florida, and Auburn. To add to their woes there is uncertainty over who is the starting quarterback.

With such a disappointing start, the student body at Tennessee is starting to call for coach Phillip Fulmer's head. Yet, junior quarterback Jonathan Crompton, in his diary on the school's website, called for fans to not "judge (Fulmer) on our 1-3 start".

Crompton is battling for his starting job this week after going 8 for 23 in the loss at Auburn. Crompton is vying with backup quarterback Nick Stephens. Fulmer has said that he expects both quarterbacks to get playing time against the Huskies.

For Huskies coach Jerry Kill, the biggest challenge his team faces on Saturday night is Tennessee's team speed. The Huskies have yet to face a team as fast as the Vols. They are quick on both sides of the ball. "Offensively, what I've been impressed with most is their tailbacks," said Kill. "We haven't faced tailbacks like that."

"They've got three tailbacks that are NFL tailbacks," said Kill. "They've got three or four offensive lineman who are going to play in the National Football League."

The Vols defense is ranked 17th in the nation in total defense. They are exceptional at stopping the run and their secondary is fast. Tennessee excels at defending inside the red zone. "Defensively, they're very, very good," Kill observed. "They're like everybody in the Southeast Conference. They're very physical. They can run. They're very well coached on the defensive side of the ball. A lot of people have tried to get outside and they just get gobbled up with the speed. Their safeties are physical."

To be successful, the Huskies can't afford to give up any big plays. Big plays are what cost NIU in their two losses this season to Minnesota and Western Michigan. "This game is going to be tough for us," Kill shared. "But it comes down to eight or nine plays in every game that makes a difference. The team that takes those plays off is the team that ends up letting the game slip by. That is what the difference in this game will be. The quicker we get settled in there after that first whistle blows, the better off we are going to be."

Harnish Working His Way Back

Redshirt freshman quarterback Chandler Harnish has been out since the second week of the season with a sprained foot. Harnish's recovery continues as Kill remains hopeful that Chandler will return to the football field soon. "He's probably a couple of weeks away," said Kill. "If we could have him as a backup for the Miami game, that would be a great thing."

Status on NIU freshman Tailback Me'co Brown

Me'co Brown broke out in last week's 37-0 shutout of Eastern Michigan with 111 yards rushing on 17 carries. Kill described Brown as "day-to-day" this week. "He's got a chance to play," Kill described. "He got his cleats caught in the ground making a cut and turned over the top of this foot"

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