NIU Huskies defense poses threat to Seminoles with tackles for loss, sacks

Northern Illinois’ defense didn’t return a fumble or interception for a touchdown this season nor did it come up with a safety. When the Huskies defense comes up with big plays, it’s in terms of tackles for loss, in which they were ninth in the nation, and sacks, in which they were 11th.

They usually do it with their front four, led by Nabal Jefferson (9.5 sacks) and Sean Progar (8.5). Florida State’s EJ Manuel might force a change.

“Obviously, his foot speed and his size (6-5, 240) present some different issues you might not face with other quarterbacks other weeks,” Northern defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said.

“So we’ll have to consider bringing in a fifth rusher at times if that’s what the down and distance and field-position situation calls for.”

Florida State is 67th in the nation in sacks allowed, 2.00 per game while Northern gets 2.92 sacks per game.

MAC’s bowl mark

Northern Illinois, a 131/2-point underdog in most Las Vegas sports books, can guarantee the Mid-American Conference a .500 bowl record this season with an upset Tuesday.

Ball State lost to Central Florida 38-17 in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 21, and Bowling Green lost to San Jose State 29-20 in Thursday’s Military Bowl.

The MAC got two wins against Sun Belt Conference teams: Central Michigan, 24-21 over Western Kentucky in Wednesday’s Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl; and Ohio University, 45-14 over Louisiana-Monroe in Friday’s Advocare 100 Independence Bowl. Kent State of the MAC plays Arkansas State in the Bowl on Jan. 6.

Potential draftees

Florida State sends players to the NFL annually. Northern Illinois sends players to the NFL occasionally. Things might be different for the latter this year after another 10-win season.

“I’ve been doing this over 20 years now and what I can tell you is what an NFL scout sees might be completely different than what I see,” Niemann said. “There’s surprises every year, guys you think might be at that level don’t get taken and guys who you don’t think are taken.

“So, I’ll leave that up to them. We have a lot of good football players in our system that are worthy of that consideration, and where all that goes I guess we’ll find out when spring rolls around.”

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