Optimism is high in DeKalb and why not?
The Northern Illinois football team is coming off a great season which saw it finish 12-2 and play in the Orange Bowl and in doing so, upset the BCS world and Kirk Herbstreit.
It was an exciting year as quarterback Jordan Lynch, a Mount Carmel grad, broke four NCAA, two Mid-American Conference, and 14 NIU records to earn All-America honors as an all-purpose player from the Associated Press.
Lynch also finished seventh in the Heisman voting with 52 points.
He set NCAA FBS records for rushing yards (1,815) and 100-yard rushing games (12) by a quarterback.
He led the nation in 100-yard rushing games and had a school-record 11 consecutive 100-yard days. He was recently named to the Manning Award Watch List.
First-year coach Rod Carey return all of his offensive line, which includes Homewood-Flossmoor grad Aidan Conlon, and the school has launched an "Lynch for 6" Heisman campaign.
Lynch knows the target is on NIU's back, but that doesn't mean there is pressure. Lynch is a calming influence and a leader, just like he was at Mount Carmel.
The Huskies are the hunted this year, but that is a good thing. NIU's program has been very successful and the trip to the Orange Bowl was a successful one despite losing to Florida State.
For three quarters, the Huskies showed they belonged.
They are the only MAC program to play in a BCS bowl. NIU's first test is at Iowa, a team it lost to by a point at Soldier Field last year.
Lynch's numbers may not be as great as last year, but he will get the job done.
The reason is everyone will be keying on him, but he is smart enough to make things happen. He is perfect for that offense; one that he ran at Mount Carmel.
The Huskies lost their top receiver in Martel Moore, who was the first Huskie to have over 1,000 yards receiving since 2005, but Tommy Lee Lewis could be Lynch's go-to receiver.
The running game returns Akeem Daniels and blocking back Rob Sterling, a T.F. South grad.
I just hope more fans turn out to Huskie Stadium because Lynch himself is worth watching, not to mention the whole team promises to be exciting.
That would have to be the most disappointing thing for the NIU players -- to run out into a half-empty stadium on a beautiful fall night or afternoon.
This could be another exciting season for Northern Illinois football.