Northern Illinois Huskies
(10-3, 9-3-1 ATS)
Fresno State Bulldogs
(8-4, 5-6-1 ATS)
The Smurf Turf will be on display one final time this year for the Humanitarian Bowl, where the Fresno State Bulldogs will lock horns with the Northern Illinois Huskies.
Poor NIU just has nothing going its way in this game. Head Coach Jerry Kill left the program before it could even get its reservations set for Boise, and the team is coming off of a very, very disappointing loss in the MAC Championship Game at the hands of the Miami Redhawks. As a result, instead of a bowl game significantly later in the year that has more meaning, the trek out to Boise is the destination for a team that went 8-0 SU and 7-0-1 ATS in conference play before the MAC title game. The offense for this team is definitely legitimate and isn’t one to be messed around with. QB Chandler Harnish probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind in terms of a dual threat signal caller, but he might be one of the best that the game has to offer. Though his passing skills could be more refined, Harnish still accounted for just under 3,000 yards this year, as he threw for 2,230 yards and rushed for 764 more. Twenty five TDs hit the board for the leader of this team, and he only tossed five INTs. RB Chad Spann is always one to watch when NIU hits the field as well. He had 1,293 yards and a stunning 20 scores on the season.
A few players have been suspended due to academics for the Bulldogs in this one, but they will have a significantly bigger concern if RB Robbie Rouse’s injured ribs don’t heal in time for this game. The top back for Fresno State sat out the final two games of the regular season due to that injury, and the hope was that its bowl game would be late enough for Rouse to start with no discomfort. Unfortunately for him, the Bulldogs are playing in the second bowl game of the year. Still, this is an offense that averaged right at 30.0 points per game this year, and though none of the numbers are truly eye popping on this team on either side of the ball, it is definitely a team to be afraid of. Rouse had a pair of 200+ yard games in a row earlier this year, while the passing game has a very consistent QB Ryan Colburn calling the shots. Colburn tossed 21 TDs against nine picks on the year, and he had 2,529 yards through the air. This defense has struggled at times though, allowing at least 34 points five times this year.
Fresno State is very, very comfortable in these surroundings, while NIU is a team that really could be in a lot of trouble with a new coaching staff and some disgruntled players. The Dogs will have their day in this one, as they have been a battle tested team all season long and aren’t going to be afraid of the best team in the MAC, whether the Huskies were champions or not.
Humanitarian Bowl Free Pick: Fresno State Bulldogs +1.5