Provo • Is the relatively unknown college football team that visits LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a first-ever matchup with BYU better than the high-profile team that limped out of Rice Eccles Stadium Saturday night?

Comparatively speaking, yes.

At least, the Northern Illinois Huskies gave the Utah Utes a much better game six weeks ago than the USC Trojans did Saturday. Utah outlasted NIU 17-6 in DeKalb, Ill., on Sept. 8, while it blasted USC 41-28 in a game that wasn’t that close. The Utes gained just 354 yards of offense against the Huskies, then put 541 on the Trojans.

Utah held NIU to 228 yards and USC to 205.

So the well-rested Cougars (4-3) have their work cut out for them against the Huskies (4-3), a Mid-American Conference team that has won three straight games and four of its last five. Northern Illinois trailed Utah 10-6 with three minutes remaining and had possession of the ball, but Chase Hansen’s pick-six saved the Utes.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS AT BYU


When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV • ESPNU

“We have to make sure we are ready to roll and keep this thing going for Northern Illinois, our next opponent and a really good opponent,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said after the Cougars walloped Hawaii 49-23 on Oct. 13.

Presumably, Sitake will chat this week with his good friend, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, about what to expect from Northern Illinois, which is 4-0 in the MAC.

The Huskies are 41st in the country in total defense, allowing just 351.4 yards per game, and 46th in scoring defense, giving up just 23.3 points per game.

Quarterback Marcus Childers has completed 55 percent of his passes for 949 yards and eight touchdowns, with five interceptions. He has also rushed 90 times for 242 yards.

Childers’ favorite targets are D.J. Brown (36 catches, 327 yards, three TDs) and Jauan Wesley (33 catches, 319 yards, two TDs).Tre Harbison and Marcus Jones both average around five yards per carry.

BYU will return the game on Oct. 24, 2020.

“BYU is an opponent that will bring a national name and a long tradition of success to our schedule,” NIU Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier said when the series was announced in July of 2014.