The last time Miami University and Northern Illinois University faced off, the RedHawks left with a stunning 26-21 victory over the Huskies in the 2010 Mid-American Conference Championship. The stakes aren't the same this time around and the two schools are on different paths.
Since the two teams played, NIU (4-2, 1-1 MAC) has won two MAC championships and every MAC West title. Meanwhile, Miami (1-6, 1-1 MAC) hasn't even posted a winning record.
"I'm excited to go there on the road and see how we matchup on the road against arguably the best team in the league … " head coach Chuck Martin said. "I'm kinda excited to see week 8, 1-6, on the road at Northern Illinois, what do we got? Where are we at mentally, physically? Cause we're gonna have to fight our tails off … to me it's an exciting challenge for us. I'm hopeful we're gonna be up for the challenge."
NIU is coming off a 34-17 loss to Central Michigan University. The loss snapped a 24-game regular season winning streak against MAC opponents and a 28-game home winning streak.
The 'Hawks are hitting the road for the fifth time in six weeks and head coach Chuck Martin thinks NIU will be "ticked" after losing to Central.
"Unfortunately, we're getting them on probably not the right week," Martin said. "They're probably pretty ticked. I was hoping they would be feeling good and don't think we're very good and overconfident."
The Huskies are led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Hare, who has the unenviable task of replacing former Huskie great Jordan Lynch. Hare has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 997 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. He is third on the team in rushing with 235 yards and two TDs. Solid numbers, but not Lynch-esq numbers.
"Hare is playing very well, but you're losing a guy who was up for the Heisman Trophy," Martin said. "It's not a knock, because Hare's numbers in the passing game are good and he's run effectively, but they're not running Hare 35 times like Lynch."
Martin has nothing but praise for NIU's offensive line.
"[They are] big and physical up front," Martin said. "Really experienced offensive line. I haven't seen all the offensive lines, but they are as good as I've seen in this league and better and significantly better than a lot of them."
Much of the onus to apply pressure on Hare falls on junior defensive end Bryson Albright. He's second in the MAC with five sacks, a number that already matches his career high.
The RedHawks will once again lean heavily on fifth-year senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix to carry the offense. Despite completing just 48 percent of his passes, Hendrix is ninth in the nation in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
"As far as scheme goes, they're pretty similar to Akron, so it's pretty nice for us to be able to game plan pretty similar to last week," redshirt freshman Jared Murphy said. "We can carry over what we did and improve on last week."
The 'Hawks have lacked the services of senior playmaker Dawan Scott the past two weeks and fifth-year tight end Alex Welch last week. Martin is hopeful they'll be back this week.
"You take out Welch and Dawan, those are major, major weapons for us …" Martin said. "We're hopeful to be getting guys back this week."
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. eastern in DeKalb, Illinois.
"We really feel like we are getting better, but we need more games," Martin said. "I wish we had played a 20 game schedule this year. Tough games on the road; that's how we get better. That's how we improve, that's how we get our program where we want."