The case for
There's never a good time to lose your coach, but the Huskies at least have momentum and continuity to ease the transition. They went 12--2 in 2012, winning the MAC for the second straight year and earning their first-ever BCS berth (a 31--10 Orange Bowl loss to Florida State). In addition, new coach Rod Carey—who took over when Dave Doeren went to N.C. State—has been on staff for two seasons and was the offensive coordinator in '12, overseeing a unit that outscored opponents 540--278.
Foremost among the 16 returning starters is quarterback and Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch. Northern Illinois averaged 38.6 points, with Lynch accounting for 44 touchdowns and 4,953 yards (75.3% of the team's total)—numbers that earned him seventh place in the Heisman voting. Lynch will be helped by senior running back Akeem Daniels and junior wideout Tommylee Lewis, a 5'7", 155-pound jitterbug who's a threat as a receiver, runner and returner.
The case against
NIU has a target on its back, a new coach and questions on defense. One slip and hungry, veteran MAC teams such as Ohio, Toledo, Central Michigan or Bowling Green could topple them. Too much rides on Lynch's health for Carey to feel entirely comfortable about his team's chances.
Heading into the season, what's the biggest game on your schedule?