By JACK McCARTHY Associated Press
---- — DE KALB, Ill. — Two of the nation’s most productive offenses clash as No. 20 Northern Illinois seeks to extend the nation’s longest current home winning streak Wednesday night.
The Huskies (9-0, 5-0 Mid-American West) go for their 25th straight home win against Ball State (9-1, 6-0) at 7 p.m. (CT) at Huskie Stadium.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” said Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey. “They’re the best team I’ve seen on film right now going into a game and how they execute their game plan overall. . They have a taste for winning and confidence is an amazing thing.”
The winner takes over the MAC West lead and be front-runner for a berth in the Dec. 6 conference championship game. The Cardinals have won seven straight since a 34-27 loss at North Texas on Sept. 14.
Quarterback Keith Wenning ranks fourth nationally with 3,164 yards passing and Willie Snead is third in receiving with 74 catches for 1,175 yards. His 12 touchdown receptions are tied for third in the country.
Last season against the Huskies, Wenning threw a school record 71 passes and completed 42 in a 35-23 loss.
“Offensively they’re very aggressive,” Northern Illinois defensive lineman Ken Bishop said. “We know they like to throw the ball. They come out and attack expeditiously, so we’re just going to have to make sure we’re prepared.”
The Huskies’ pass defense is 107th in the nation. But Northern Illinois compensates with a top 10 offense that has generated 160 points in its last three games, including a season-high 63 points on Nov. 2 at Massachusetts.
It’s all led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, who is 164-of-258 for 1,871 yards and 19 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
“He’s probably underrated as a passer,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. “You get so geared up to stop the run game — the quarterback run game and all the misdirection — that they have some good opportunities to throw it on the perimeter. Their staff is very wise in terms of taking advantage of what the defense is giving them.”
Ball State beat Central Michigan 44-24 last Wednesday while the Huskies have had 10 days to prepare since a 63-19 blowout win over Massachusetts on Nov. 2.
The Cardinals lead the overall series 20-18-2 and hope to break a four-game series losing streak.
“It’s neat for our program to be in this position,” Lembo said. “Before the 2011 season, we hoped to build a program that would be able to compete. . I’m proud of how our kids have bought in and how hard they’ve worked.”
Here are a few things to know about Wednesday’s game:
BEST START: A 10th victory would be the Huskies’ best start since joining the major college ranks in 1969 and match the school’s all-time 10-0 mark set by its 1963 NCAA College Division champions.
STILL PERFECT: The Huskies are among six teams around the nation still unbeaten. In addition to its long home winning streak, Northern Illinois also has the nation’s longest active road run (14) and longest current conference winning streak (22).
TOPS IN FBS: Ball State is the only FBS team to have a quarterback with at least 25 touchdown passes, a receiver with at least 12 touchdown receptions and a running back with at least 12 rushing touchdowns (Jahwan Edwards).
TROPHY GAME: Wednesday’s winner will also claim the Bronze Stalk, a traveling trophy being awarded for the sixth year. The teams first played for the trophy in 2008 and Northern Illinois has won four of five meetings.
PATRIOTS’ GAME: Northern Illinois players will wear special patriotic jerseys as part of Wednesday’s Heroes Game, which will salute active duty military, veterans and police, firefighters and first responders. Uniforms will be auctioned off postgame with proceeds benefiting Active Heroes, an organization which offers programs to combat post-traumatic stress disorders.