Trauma: Northern Illinois had a wonderful season, but it took a dark, Ian McEwan-style twist at the end. The Huskies blew the MAC title game to Miami of Ohio and, in the subsequent days, head coach Jerry Kill left for Minnesota. A month between the regular season and the bowl might have softened the blow. Northern Illinois has had two weeks.
Returning to the Scene: Fresno State played on the smurf turf earlier this season. It didn’t go well. Boise State smoked them 51-0 at home and held them to 125 yards and 1/12 third down conversions.
For Northern Illinois to Win: They need a big day from the offensive line. The Huskies must establish the run to win. Northern Illinois averaged 6.22 yards per carry, better than Auburn, Oregon, Michigan and Nebraska. Only Nevada (6.32) was better. Chad Spann being contained was a large reason they lost the MAC to Miami of Ohio. They also have to contain a potent Fresno State pass rush.
For Fresno State to Win: The Bulldogs need their front seven to contain the run. Their quarterback Ryan Colburn must avoid mistakes against a Northern Illinois secondary that had 16 interceptions. They need an effective performance from running back Robbie Rouse, coming off a myriad of injuries and wearing a “club-like” cast on one hand.
Prediction: Northern Illinois is a better team, but has undergone turmoil in recent weeks. Fresno State will be more excited to be there. I think they sneak out a win.
[Photo via Getty]