Created:Monday, March 1, 2010 11:00 p.m.CDT

Quirky schedule for 2010

Northern Illinois released its 2010 football schedule on Monday. (Chronicle file photo)

Northern Illinois and the Mid-American Conference on Monday released what can only be described as an interesting football schedule for NIU’s 2010 season.

The Huskies, coming off a 7-6 (5-3 MAC) year that ended with a loss in the International Bowl to South Florida, open the 2010 season with four of their first five games on the road.

Following that, NIU plays four of five at home and has two long layoffs in the final third of the season before finishing with two road games. NIU also will play all of its crossover games before concluding the regular season with its five divisional games.

“It’s unique that we are playing three teams from the other side before our’s,” NIU coach Jerry Kill said. “I haven’t quite seen that before.”

The Huskies will start the season with a Thursday night game at Iowa State. After that, NIU plays its lone home game of the first five weeks with a game against an FCS team in North Dakota. The Huskies round out the non-conference schedule with games at Illinois and at Minnesota.

After a trip to Akron to start the MAC schedule, NIU gets Temple, Buffalo and Central Michigan at home. With expectations running high for both the Huskies and the Owls, their Oct. 9 game could be a preview of the MAC Championship Game (Friday, Dec. 3 in Detroit).

The Huskies get a long layoff in between a trip to Western Michigan on Oct. 30 and playing Toledo at home at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9 on ESPN2.

“We’ve got only one Tuesday game, and that’s Toledo, which should draw pretty well.”

Then NIU gets another long respite before playing at Ball State on Nov. 20.

“That should give us a chance to get healed up pretty well late in the season,” Kill said

NIU closes out the regular season the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 26) at Eastern Michigan.

“Scheduling is a difficult process and a lot of things go into it,” Kill said. “As a coaching staff and a team, we play who is on the schedule. You’d like not to play four of the first five on the road, but we’re looking forward to the first game at Iowa State and that’s what we’re concentrating on.

“There’s no question the MAC will be extremely competitive again in 2010. People like to focus on the non-conference schedule, and those games in the first month of the season are important and will present a big challenge for our team, but our goal every year is to win our league.”

NIU plays only five home games this fall, as Kill and NIU athletic director Jeff Compher scheduled three non-conference road games, with the payouts from the Illinois and Minnesota games alone totaling more than $1 million.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?