Created:Tuesday, November 1, 2011 5:30 a.m.CDT

NIU's 5 keys to victory


1. Commit to the option early

The forecast calls for a high of 58 degrees and clear skies beautiful November weather for northern Ohio. It will be tempting for NIU to open the game with its passing attack. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada must say no to the throw. The Huskies' best offense this season has been their option. Run it early, run it often, utilize the MAC's best offensive line, and NIU will stay competitive.

2. Tackling

It's always important, even more so today. Toledo's offense is based on screens, taking advantage of overpursuing defenders, and sloppy tackling. It's not enough to get into position to make a play. NIU's defense has to finish plays with solid technique. That means wrap up.

3. Third-down defense

Both offenses are loaded. The team that gets its offense on the field longest will probably win. That makes getting off the field on third down – something NIU has improved at recently – absolutely essential.

4. Special, special teams

The third phase hadn't been kind to NIU until last week. Against Buffalo, it was a major reason the Huskies won. If that continues tonight, NIU's chances of winning are much greater. Meanwhile, it can't win with poor special teams.

5. Quiet the Glass Bowl

It's been NIU's house of horrors. This season, Toledo has had especially good crowds for its home games. Expect another one tonight. In order to end the streak of disappointments at the Glass Bowl, the Huskies must get off to a good start. Do that, and it will take some of the sting off the crowd.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?