2. THE NEW COACH: This time last year, Carey was the offensive line coach. Now, he’s in charge from the start, after a quick climb last season. He moved up to offensive coordinator after the first game last season when Mike Dunbar left the team for health reasons and then became the head coach on the same day NIU accepted the Orange Bowl invitation, with Dave Doeren leaving for North Carolina State.
3. BUILDING OFF THE BCS: With five straight bowl seasons, the Huskies are no strangers to success. Now, they can also boast a BCS appearance. Carey acknowledged the Orange Bowl run opened some recruiting doors, but it also left NIU in a balancing act. “It got us into a lot more conversations,” he said. “You have to be careful because it’s like going to the dance with a girl. And if all of a sudden you end up dancing with another girl too long, the date you brought to the dance isn’t going to be there at the end of the night, right? You have to be careful about those conversations, but it certainly got us into more.”
4. LYNCH AND WHO ELSE?: NIU lost leading receiver Martel Moore (1,083 yards), but with Lynch and the entire line back, the offense should be in good shape. There are some question marks on the other side with seven starters gone from a defense that ranked third overall in the conference.
5. FOR OPENERS: Besides the Orange Bowl, the only other loss for Northern Illinois was when it fell 18-17 to Iowa at Soldier Field in the first game. And guess where they open against this year? At Iowa on Aug. 31. “This is not a revenge game,” Carey said. “This is not a rematch. We do not have the same teams. We are not playing at the same place. This is brand new teams going against each other.”
Predicted finish: First in the MAC West in the conference media poll.