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.
"Why our defense was so good last year was real easy — guys played fresh," Carey said. "Guys rotated in there. ... Now, those role players have to step up into starting roles and they have to perform at a high level. The key behind that is how the young guys step in and play into their role?"
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.