Utah State-Northern Illinois Bowl Game Point Spread Preview, Expert Picks, Score Prediction
Runner-ups of their respective conference title games are set to square off in the second season the night after Christmas when Utah State and Northern Illinois collide in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies made a comeback bid late but ultimately fell to the Fresno State Bulldogs in the MWC Championship Game, while the Huskies saw their BCS hopes get dashed after getting throttled in the MAC Championship Game by Bowling Green.
UTAH STATE – NORTHERN ILLINOIS POINSETTIA BOWL GAME BETTING LINE:
1. Why UTAH STATE will cover the spread: Even though QB Chuckie Keeton was lost for the season against BYU at home in Week 6, first year head coach Matt Wells never lost his team as his kids continued to go about their business without feeling sorry for themselves. The Aggies went on to win five of their final six games of the season before limiting the 5th ranked scoring team in the league to just 24 points last time out.
The defense led the way for USU all season long, and I expect it to do so once again here tonight against a Huskies offense that’s more or less a two-man show. QB Jordan Lynch is a good one, but he’ll be up against it in this one opposing the Aggies 7th ranked scoring defense that excels in defending the run (#10).
2. Why NORTHERN ILLINOIS will cover the spread: Northern Illinois was one of the better moneymakers in the country covering eight of its 13 overall lined games. It got the job done more times than not for a couple of reasons. For one, the MAC was one of the easier conferences to navigate through this season with only six of 13 teams posting +.500 records. But the biggest reason was the 1-2 punch of Lynch and RB Cameron who each rushed for over 1000 yards and scored a combined 31 TDs.
With not much expected from the Huskies 115th ranked passing attack, it will be up to this duo to run right into the teeth of the Aggies defense to give their squad a shot of winning its third bowl game in the L/4 seasons.
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3. Total Talk: Aggies’ games averaged 49.9 PPG this season while the Huskies lit the scoreboard up for an average of 66.7 PPG. The ‘under’ cashed in seven of Utah State’s 13 overall played games with it playing to low scorers in four of seven away from Logan. Northern Illinois cashed ‘over’ bettors tickets at an 8-5 clip with four of seven eclipsing the closing number when away from DeKalb. The ‘under’ has cashed four of the L/5 times USU opposed a +.500 opponent, while the Huskies have played to low scorers in 10 of their L/13 neutral field tilts.
4. Betting Trends for Utah St./NIU: The Aggies hadn’t gone to a bowl since 1997 when they took to the Smurf Turf back in 2011 to battle Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Though they lost that game 24-23 to the Bobcats, they returned the following season and tallied the program’s first bowl win since 1993 after destroying Toledo 41-15. Now on a bigger stage at Qualcomm, look for Utah State to be way up for this one against an opponent that could come in a bit deflated knowing full well it choked away a possible return trip to a BCS Bowl after getting embarrassed in Motown.
Utah State has been extremely competitive in its L/17 non-conference games going 8-9 SU & 12-4-1 ATS, and it will by far trot the better defense onto the gridiron. Against a one-dimensional Huskies outfit that’s hemorrhaged money for its wagering supporters in neutral site games (3-10-1 ATS L/14), this looks to be a very good spot for the underdogs to pull the mild upset and win successive bowl games
Utah State 23 – Northern Illinois 20