Sunday, January 8, 2012

PS Bowl-A-Thon 2011: Bowl

The Where and When: Bowl, Ladd Pabbles Stadium, Mobile, AL, January 8, 2012 9:00 ET ESPN/ESPN3

The Who:
Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0 Sun Belt) vs Northern Illinois (10-3, 7-1 MAC)

The Why:
Formerly known as the GMAC Bowl, the Bowl features the conference champions from the Sun Belt and MAC. Arkansas State (Sun Belt Champions) went perfect in conference play, suffering their only two losses to Virginia Tech and Illinois. Northern Illinois (Sun Belt Champions) dropped only one game in conference action at Central Michigan. Since then, they've rattled off eight straight wins.

What Smartypants Accounting Guy Would Tell You:
Statistically, Arkansas St. has the advantage. The have the 18th best passing offense (288 ypg), with the 47th best rushing attack (164 ypg)...averaging over 33 points per game. The only two teams to slow them down were Va Tech and Illinois...obvious mismatches. NIU's offense is prolific also. Relying on the rushing game, the Huskies are ranked 8th in rushing yards per game (247)...and compliment that with 230+ yards
per game in the air.

So the difference maker has to be the defense then. The Red Wolves give up less than 20 ppg...while the Huskies give up 31 ppg. But when the Red Wolves played big time programs, the defense wasn't as up a two-game average of 29 ppg. The NIU defense has struggled at times, forcing the Huskies into the occasional shootout, giving up 45 to Kansas (inexcusable), 49 to Wisconsin (understandable), 48 to Central Michigan, 60 to Toledo, and 38 to Ball State.

Pool Prognosticators Pattern:
Former Arkansas State head coach, Hugh Freeze, is off to Mississippi, leaving assistant coach David Gunn in charge. Any dude with the last name Gunn gets my vote. Sorry Dave Doeren...however you say it...

Vegas Edge:
Arkansas State is favored by 1...meaning it's a toss up. 66 is the over/under...meaning that Vegas isn't convinced the two teams won't hit their season averages. (Arkansas St. 33.5...NIU 38.3) Bowl president Jerry Silverstein is hoping to set the all-time bowl record for points there's at least one guy going with the over. (The 2001 GMAC Bowl showcased 125 total points.)

The Sweatpants Verdict:
Both teams have so much momentum going into this game...with the only real distraction being Coach Freeze leaving Arkansas St. Coach Doeren wants to finish off this magical first they'll be prepared. Although my confidence in this pick isn't high...I'm going with the Red Wolves in this one. The NIU defense just won't be able to withstand this shootout. Arkansas St 42-34

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