South Florida Bulls (7-5 4-6 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (7-5 5-6 ATS) Rogers Centre Toronto, Canada 12 PM EST Saturday January 2, 2010 on ESPN2
by Jason Green at Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bulls -6.5 / Huskies +6.5
In the International Bowl the day after New Year’s Day the Northern Illinois Huskies face the South Florida Bulls north of the border in Toronto. This game may be a defensive battle, as each team has a legit defense, but neither team features an offense that ranks in the top 70 in the nation.
The Bulls did not end the season well to say the least, as after starting the season 5-0, for the 2nd straight year, they lost 5 of their last 7 games including losing their last 2. They also are still dealing with internal issues, as there was a report that head coach Jim Leavitt grabbed RB Joel Miller by the throat and hit him during halftime of a game on November 21st. Miller has said the accusations are false, but it was a major distraction for the Bulls down the stretch. The Bulls were 2-3 against ranked teams this season.
The Huskies are playing in a bowl for the 2nd straight year, but they lost their last 2 games of the season after winning their previous 4. The Huskies did not play one ranked team this season. NIU may have a bigger fan base since Northern Illinois is a tad closer to Toronto than South Florida is. And by a tad I mean a lot.
Both teams have defenses ranked in the top 31 in the nation, but the Huskies gave up an average of 41.5 points in their last 2 losses and the Bulls gave up an average of 30 points in their last 2 losses.
In their last game the Huskies lost to Central Michigan 45-31 and the Bulls lost to Connecticut 29-27.
In their last game against Central Michigan the Huskies were dominated in the first 3 quarters being down 38-10 before scoring 3 TD’s in the 4th quarter, but by that time the game was pretty much over. Northern Illinois and Central Michigan were somewhat even in terms of passing yards, but Central Michigan killed the Huskies on the ground out-gaining them in rushing yards 257 to 126. The Huskies were underdogs by 11 points so they did not cover the spread.
In their loss to Connecticut in their last game the Bulls had a good comeback scoring 13 points in the 4th quarter but UCONN kicked a field goal as time expired to win the game. In the game both teams had just about the same total yards and while the Bulls had more rushing yards the Huskies had more passing yards. The Bulls’ D could not keep the Huskies from marching down the field late in the 4th quarter, which set up their game-winning FG. The Bulls were underdogs by 7.5 points so they covered the spread.
South Florida’s defense is better against the pass than the run and that is not good since NIU ranks 17th in the nation in rushing yards. However, the NIU passing offense only ranks 110th in the nation so the Bulls should stack the line and they will keep the RB duo of Chad Spann (945 yds 19 TD) and Me’co Brown (645 yds TD) from having big games.
NIU has the nation’s 31st ranked rushing defense and they will have to contain Bulls QB B.J. Daniels (1,766 yds 12 TD), who also leads the team in rushing yards (798 yds 9 TD). The Huskies were killed on the ground in their last game and they will struggle against Daniels in this game.
The Huskies will also struggle to contain the WR duo of Carlton Mitchell and A.J. Love, who each averaged over 18 yards per reception this season. Since NIU will focus on stopping Daniels, mainly running the ball, the Bulls will make a few plays down field through the air.
The Huskies did have 29 sacks this season, which ranked 31st in the nation, but even though the Bulls only ranked 101st in the nation in sacks allowed they played much better, and bigger, teams and they will protect Daniels in this game.
Jason’s Pick: To say the Bulls played a tougher schedule this season is a major understatement. They have a better all around team and their rushing attack and Daniels will be too much to handle. Look for the Bulls to have no problems winning this game, as they will keep the Huskies from running the ball and that is the only way NIU can score. Take the Bulls and the points in this game.