The Northern Illinois Huskies were on a marvelous 7-1 ATS run but lost their last two games vs. the numbers. In the process, NIU also blew a shot at a second consecutive BCS bowl, getting upset in the MAC Championship Game.
So the Huskies are battling a bit of a slump going into a Poinsettia Bowl matchup with the Aggies of Utah State on Thursday, Dec. 26 in San Diego. They've now lost two of their last 26 games.
Point spread: Huskies opened as 2.5-point favorites over the Aggies; the total was 57. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.1-31.2 Huskies
Why the Aggies can cover the Poinsettia Bowl spread
Utah State returned 14 starters from a team that went 11-2 last year but had to replace its head coach after Gary Andersen bolted to Wisconsin. The Aggies started slowly, losing back-to-back games in October to fall to 3-4, but then won five in a row to win the Mountain West Conference's Mountain Division in its first season as a member.
Utah State played rather poorly in the MWC Championship Game at Fresno State yet still had a chance to force overtime before a late drive ended with an interception.
Nonetheless the Aggies are playing in a bowl for the third straight season. USU lost quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury in October, but freshman Darell Garretson has performed admirably in his place. On the season, Utah State has averaged 241 yards per game passing and 180 YPG rushing, while defensively the Aggies rank 12th in the country overall and 10th vs. the run (allowing just 107 YPG on the ground).
The computer has picked a 32-31 final, which would give the cover to Utah State at +1.5.
Why the Huskies can cover the Poinsettia Bowl spread
Northern Illinois also had to replace its head coach after Dave Doeren took off for NC State. But with Heisman hopeful QB Jordan Lynch and the entire offensive line back from last year, the Huskies were the favorites to win the MAC for the third straight season.
NIU proceeded to win its first 12 games, beating a couple of Big Ten teams, reaching No. 14 in the BCS standings. But the Huskies' BCS hopes were snuffed out when they got upset by Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game, 47-27.
With Lynch handling most of the load, the Huskies have averaged 313 YPG on the ground this season and 223 YPG through the air. And while NIU ranks 91st in the country in total defense, some of that has to do with the Huskies playing with leads, sometimes large, almost all season.
Utah State was somewhat fortunate to reach the MWC Championship Game, thanks in part to a kind conference schedule, but the Aggies also got better as the season progressed. They survived a change at quarterback and held their last six foes to an average of 13 PPG. Northern Illinois, meanwhile, rolled through a significant portion of its schedule, although it also was fortunate to miss several of the contenders in the MAC.
Lynch will receive most of the attention heading into this game, but Bowling Green figured out how to slow him down—keep the ball away from him. Utah State is capable of doing the same. Take the points with the Aggies, and if you believe in zig-zag over-under patterns, Poinsettia Bowl betting odds history reveals a trend that would see this game play OVER the total.
- Over-unders alternated past eight seasons, OVER is due
- UNDER is 5-0-1 past six NIU bowl games
- NIU 24-2 SU past 26 games overall
- Utah State is 8-4 ATS past 12 games