Western Illinois (1-0) at Northern Illinois (0-1)
When: 6:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium
TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Series: NIU leads 20-17-1.
Coaches: Don Patterson (63-45, 11th year at WIU); Jerry Kill (6-8, second year at NIU; 110-65 in 16th year overall).
Players to watch: WIU junior quarterback Matt Barr (437 yards, 3 TDs) has found a buddy in junior WR Lito Senatus, a Miami native who hails from California juco powerhouse College of the Sequoias. They hooked up 11 times for a school-record 235 yards and 2 TDs in the Leathernecks' 35-28 opening win over Sam Houston State. Senatus leads all FCS receivers in yards. Nose tackle Abe Koroma, a 315-pound beast who transferred from Penn State just 10 days before Western's opener, anchors the defense along with senior co-captain Buddy Dudczak (Fremd) and sophomore Mike Garoppolo (Rolling Meadows) at OLB. Tim Franken (Driscoll) started at rover in the opener.
Northern Illinois nearly rallied from a 28-6 deficit at Wisconsin last week before falling 28-20 as QB Chandler Harnish posted 174 passing yards while RBs Me'co Brown (64 yards) and Chad Spann (20 yards, 2 TDs) handled the rushing load. Senior OLB Cory Hanson (2 INTs) and K Mike Salerno (2 FG) earned MAC West player of the week honors. True freshmen Martel Moore and Perez Ashford started at receiver at Wisconsin, though the prodigies combined for just 2 catches and 19 yards. True freshman Alan Baxter, a Buffalo Grove alum, saw extensive time as a backup defensive end and posted 2 tackles.
The skinny: WIU has beaten NIU five times since the Huskies chose to play in what's known now as the Football Bowl Subdivision while the Leathernecks stuck with the FCS. This figures to be another tooth-and-nail game as Western boasts a more experienced lineup than the Huskies, who started just four seniors at Wisconsin. WIU, pegged for fifth place in the Missouri Valley preseason poll, ranks among the "Others Receiving Votes" in both major FCS polls.