Bowl prediction record: 5-6 SU, 3-8 ATS, 5-5-1 O/U
Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5), San Diego, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Boise State – 9.5 – O/U 56
All of a sudden, the MAC teams are looking pretty strong in their bowl games. With that in mind, perhaps Boise State should be very wary when taking on Northern Illinois is San Diego. By their standards, the Broncos have had a very disappointing season, losing to some teams they’d never dreamed could beat them in the past, like Air Force, New Mexico and Utah State. (And that Utah State just dropped a bowl game to middle-of-the MAC Akron, which had never won a bowl game before.) Still, on paper, Boise State looks to be the stronger team. They have a stronger defense (342-400 ypg) and stronger offense (488-427 ypg) – at least when compared to their respective schedules. Freshman QB Brett Rypien (nephew of former Washington QB Mark Rypien) was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year and an all-conference first teamer. He leads a three-headed offensive attack that also includes RB Jeremy McNichols and WR Thomas Sperbeck, who also garnered all-conference honors. The offensive line is strong and should provide ample protection. The problems for the Broncos come on defense, where the points are scored by the bushel. In the past six games, Boise State has given up 23 or more points five times, with an average of 31.7 ppg. The Broncos’ secondary is stout, but their line needs to get more pressure. Northern Illinois isn’t exactly blowing the opposition away on defense either. The problem is that against all but one of their better opponents, the Huskies averaged only 16 ppg, and gave up an average of 25 points in those games. Northern Illinois will follow the lead of QB Ryan Graham, who is filling in for the injured Drew Hare. He has a solid first target in WR Kenny Golladay, and will count on the legs of RB Joel Bouagnon (1,269, 18 TDs). The Huskies may score some points, but if they can’t keep Boise State from running up and down the field, it will all be for naught. Prediction: Boise State 31, Northern Illinois 24.
Result: Boise State 55, Northern Illinois 7. MVP: Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State. 29-of-39 for 377 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. Bottom Line: The first blowout of the bowl season started immediately, with Boise State going up 7-0 just 19 seconds into the game. By halftime, it was 31-7, and it didn’t get any better after the break. Northern Illinois gained just 33 total yards for the game and got its lone touchdown on a kickoff return. Boise State picked up a total of 654 yards, with 377 through the air and 277 on the ground.
Georgia Southern (8-4) vs. Bowling Green (10-3), Mobile, 8 p.m., ESPN
Bowling Green – 7 – O/U 64.5
Bowling Green is definitely the class of the MAC, with losses only to bowl teams Tennessee, Memphis and Toledo. The Falcons churned through their schedule with the fifth-highest scoring offense in the country. QB Matt Johnson is the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, having thrown for 4,700 yards and 43 TDs. He is joined in the backfield by all-conference RB Travis Greene (1,220 yards, 14 TDs) and has a few good targets in WRs Roger Lewis (1,476 yards, 15 TDs), Gehrig Dieter (957 yards, 9 TDs) and Ronnie Moore (871 yards, 5 TDs). Bowling Green is less stout on defense, giving up almost 27 ppg. The Falcons are weakest against the pass, which is good for them since Georgia Southern rarely passes the ball. The Eagles have the worst passing offense in the nation, gaining just 62 ypg. But on the ground, they’re the best in the country, gaining 356 ypg. However, against winning teams, those totals drop to 257 yards rushing and 36 yards passing. And their overall scoring average drops from 35 ppg to just 18. QB Kevin Ellison leads the offense, but RB Matt Breida is the workhorse (1,530 yards, 16 TDs). He’ll need a huge day for Georgia Southern to have a chance. On defense, the Eagles have struggled against good passing defenses, but have a first-rate safety in Antonio Glover. DE Bernard Dawson and DT Jay Ellison will need to get pressure on Johnson. In the end, Bowling Green is simply too strong. Prediction: Bowling Green 34, Georgia Southern 21.