It’s Group of Five superpower vs. Group of Five superpower, but neither one won their respective conference. Boise State (8-4) had a bit of an uneven year, while Northern Illinois (8-5) lost to Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Check out the Boise State vs. Northern Illinois prediction and San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl preview.
Boise State vs. Northern Illinois Game Preview
Date: Friday, January 1
Game Time: 1:00 pm ET
Venue: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
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Why You Need To Care
At least Northern Illinois got to the MAC title game.
It was a rough start with three losses in the first five games, including the MAC opener against Central Michigan, but everything clicked in with a six-game winning streak including key wins over Toledo and Western Michigan. Injuries, quarterback problems, and Bowling Green were too much to overcome, but the Huskies now face a bigger barrier.
For all the success and all the positivity, this has been a bad bowl team over the last three seasons. Getting crushed by Florida State in the 2013 Orange is one thing, but last year the MAC champ couldn’t hold up against Marshall in a 52-23 Boca Raton loss. One win over Boise State, though, changes around how the season will be remembered.
While NIU has struggled on the big post-season stage over the last three years, Boise State has been fantastic winning five of their last six games including last season’s 38-30 Fiesta over Arizona.
This year’s team was good offensively, and great against the run, but it came up with three close losses to New Mexico and Air Force late – Boise State used to never lose those types of home games – along with a tough one at BYU late. There were times when the Broncos looked the part of the Mountain West’s best team, and other times it didn’t seem to be anywhere near its normal self.
A win would mean Boise State’s 13th season of nine wins or more in the last 14 years, while a win for NIU would make it 66 wins in six years.
Why Northern Illinois Will Win
If you run well, you have a shot against Boise State. The Bronco defensive front has been a wall for the most part this season, but the three biggest running games allowed – Utah State, New Mexico and Air Force – were all losses. The Lobos and Aggies didn’t go off, but they were effective. Also, Boise State has allowed two rushing touchdowns or more five times this season, and lost four of them and only got by UNLV. Northern Illinois averages 205 rushing yards per game with two rushing touchdowns or more in eight of the 13 games. However …
Why Boise State Will Win
The Northern Illinois offense has fallen flat after suffering a slew of quarterback injuries. Starter Drew Hare suffered a ruptured Achilles heel, Anthony Maddie suffered a back injury and was never in the mix, and Ryan Graham was hit with a leg injury and missed the MAC championship. Tommy Fiedler couldn’t move the offense, and now Graham is back for the bowl – can the O start to run more effectively?
Ohio took up residence in the NIU backfield with a season-high 11 tackles for loss in the stunning win – allowing just 73 rushing yards and a score. Bowling Green tied its season-high with nine tackles for loss against the Huskies in the MAC championship, allowing just 107 yards and fewer than three yards per carry. The Broncos, with 86 tackles for loss on the year, should be able to get behind the line without much of a problem.
Player Who Matters
Northern Illinois had a decent year against the pass led by Shawun Lurry, and All-American with nine interceptions, 39 tackles and 14 broken up passes. He’s not all that big at 5-8 and 178 yards, but he’s extremely quick and physical when he has to be. Most of all, he’s a ball-hawker coming up with two picks on a national stage against Ohio State and seven in the first seven game before teams stopped throwing his way. In San Diego, Boise State QB Brett Rypien has to be careful.
After starter Ryan Finley suffered a broken leg, if was the freshman Rypien who stepped in an played like a seasoned pro with a 321-yard, three-score day against Virginia on the road, and with 17 scoring passes in nine games. However, when he made mistakes, Boise State lost with three interceptions given away against both Utah State and New Mexico. In the loss against New Mexico, he came up with his only game all year hitting fewer than 50% of his passes with not enough happening down the field. If he’s sharp, NIU won’t be able to keep up.
What’s Going To Happen?
A good bowl after the last few years, the Poinsettia has been decided by seven points or fewer in three of the last four games. Northern Illinois lost to Utah State 21-14 two years ago and to TCU 37-7 in 2006. Make it 0-3.
The Boise State defense will be on against the run and Graham won’t be able to pick up the slack for the NIU attack. The Broncos will get up early and let the defense take over, winning both the turnover and field position battles along the way. It’ll be a great showcase day for the Mountain West.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Prediction
Prediction: Boise State 34, Northern Illinois 17, Line: Boise State -8.5, o/u: 56
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