Created:Saturday, October 8, 2011 5:30 a.m.CDT
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TAKE 2: NIU defense has to establish itself against Kent State

By JOHN SAHLY and RYAN WOOD - sports@daily-chronicle.com

Daily Chronicle sports editor John Sahly and sports reporter Ryan Wood spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their 2011 Take 2 column, they discuss the importance of NIU's game today against Kent State.

Wood: John, to me this is not merely a must-win. When Northern Illinois hosts Kent State at 2:30 p.m. today at Huskie Stadium, it's a must-establish. As in, this defense must establish something – anything – resembling success. Against the worst offense in the Mid-American Conference – and, arguably, the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision – NIU has no more excuses this week. If the Huskies can't tackle the Golden Flashes, they have no chance against Western Michigan next week and Toledo down the road.

With that in mind, give me a barometer. How important is this game in the context of the season as a whole?

Sahly: This answer is going to sound like coachspeak, but it's as important as the rest of them are. I think everyone realizes what NIU is up against. It loses one out of the next seven, and Detroit doesn't look like a realistic possibility for the conference title game. So, in my view, they're all big from here and out, and I'm not sure it matters how NIU looks in doing it. The Huskies are going to have to win a few of them ugly to make it back to Ford Field. That said, this shouldn't be one of them.

Wood: Oh, dear, you've been hanging around too many news conferences.

Look, you can make the point. Mathematically, every MAC game has equal significance. And, believe me, if NIU loses one of its next seven it has NO chance of advancing to Detroit.

But come on, John.

While a coach's job is to treat every opponent the same, focus on how your team is doing, play them one at a time – all those cliches – us media folk are supposed to put things into context. The win is important, but I guarantee you it matters to NIU defensive players how they do it.

If the Huskies give up four touchdowns to an offense that can't distinguish which end zone is theirs, confidence will be shattered. At that point, being 1-1 hardly matters, because a NIU defense with no confidence is getting beat bad next week.

Sahly: I was unaware the MAC awards style points for how you win. Interesting.

Will the NIU football team play for the MAC title this year?
Yes
No
Too soon to tell