3rd: MAC (2nd in West Division)
76th: Division I
2017 In A Sentence: NIU used its defense to get back to a winning season after finishing 5-7 in 2016 to finish 8-5 but did end the season on a sour note in losing its last two games including the Quick Lane Bowl to Duke.
Biggest Shoes to Fill: LB Bobby Jones IV was NIU’s leading tackler after finishing 2017 with a career-high 107 stops and had 233 for his career. He also tallied 12.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks, and recorded his first interception last season. He was invited the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars’ rookie camp this past spring.
Key Player: While losing Jones will hurt, DE Sutton Smith should remain a terror on the defensive side in his junior season this year. He was once a running back but found his spot defense last year as he led the FBS with whopping 29.5 tackles for a loss and tied for the most sacks with 14. He helped a MAC-best defense give up just 22 points per game and in total defense (338.5 yards per game).
Fearless Prediction: The Huskies fortunes were consistent last year with defense and do not but may have found its offensive leader in now QB Marcus Childers, who started the last seven games last year as a freshman. With a little more development, Childers will help lead NIU to challenge for the MAC West Division title.