Match-up: Boise State (Mountain West) Vs. Northern Illinois (MAC)
Spread: Boise State (-7.5)
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
When: Wednesday, December 23rd
Where to Watch: ESPN
Boise State Overview
The Broncos didn’t quite live up to the hype this season, following a 12-2 season and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona. Bryan Harsin’s unit lacked consistency all season, as shown by some of their games. The same team that went into Virginia to destroy the Cavaliers 56-14 ended up getting destroyed by Utah State a few weeks later, in a game where the Broncos turned the ball over 8 times. Still, Boise State was able to win eight games, led by their 17th ranked scoring offense and the 19th best passing attack in the nation. Though they’ve lost two of their last three, they are coming off of a 40-23 win against San Jose State, so they’ll look to build some momentum from that.
Players to Watch
Jeremy McNichols (RB) – The sophomore standout had a very nice year for the Broncos, as he managed to put up 1244 yards and 18 touchdowns (tied for 3rd in the nation) on 221 carries. The 5’9″ running back will look to pound the rock against the 64th ranked rush defense in the nation.
Darian Thompson (S) – Thompson stuffed the stat sheet during his senior year, as he accounted for 63 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 13 combined pass deflections and breakups. He’ll be looking to impress the scouts, as he’s currently a projected 2nd round pick in this year’s NFL draft, according to cbssports.com.
How Boise State Can Win
Boise State can win this game if they just follow the blueprint that Bowling Green laid out for them in the MAC Title; pound the rock to set up the passing attack. Again, Northern Illinois ranks 64th in rush defense, as well as 78th in passing defense. Boise State has a balanced attack that can confuse this overall average defense. As long as Boise State doesn’t turn the ball over, they should be alright.
Like Boise State, it was a very streaky year for the huskies, who went on the following streaks; 2 wins, 3 losses, 6 wins, 2 losses. They played Ohio State incredibly tough early in the season, but then they couldn’t capitalize against teams like Central Michigan and Boston College. Their 8-5 record must be rather disappointing for a team that is just 3 years removed from an Orange Bowl appearance, as well as a team that hasn’t won less than 11 games over that stretch. After dominating Bowling Green in the 2014 MAC Title game, they were defeated hastily by those Falcons this year, 34-14. They head into this game on a two game losing streak, looking to bounce back one more time before the season ends.
Players to Watch
Kenny Golladay (WR) – The 6’4″ Junior had a surprisingly productive season, despite being in an offense that lacked a 2000 yard passer. Golladay’s 71 receptions produced 1122 yards and 10 TDs. He averaged 15.8 yards per catch and accounted for 39% of the team’s receiving yards. Look for him to be active early and often throughout this game.
Shawun Lurry (CB) – The Sophomore cornerback has a bright future ahead of him. Lurry was the second player in Northern Illinois history to be named an All-American by the Walter Camp award voters (2nd team). His 9 interceptions lead the nation. He also had 41 tackles, 14 pass break ups and 23 pass deflections. He’s a star in the making, and he could look to continue to build up his resume with an impressive showing against a great passing attack.
How Northern Illinois Can Win
Win the turnover battle. Boise State opponents have scored 25.8% of their points off of turnovers. This is a pretty stout defense that rarely gives up big plays, and Northern Illinois doesn’t have the defense to slow down Boise State’s offense. If they’re going to have a shot in this game, they’ll have to force plenty of turnovers and win the game that way.
Final Score Prediction: Boise State Wins 31-17