C-USA teams have not looked good in bowl season thus far 0-2 SU and ATS as North Texas got absolutely destroyed. Meanwhile, the MAC's Eastern Michigan covered, but should have won the game outright. The MAC is getting a lot of negative publicity, and add that into the fact that Rod Carey, the head coach of Northern Illinois is 0-5 SU & ATS in bowl games, I think we are getting plenty of value on this play here, but lets dig deeper.
We have two top 25 defenses from a yards per play perspective and it all starts with both teams feature top pass rushes ranked in the top 10. Both teams run the ball over 57% of the time, and the first priority for both teams will be to establish the running game, and stop the opponent's running game. Whomever can stop the run has the best shot at winning this game, because both teams are elite at getting to the QB.
I like Northern Illinois rushing defense that has been tested this season ranking 3rd having faced an average opponent rushing offense ranking 68th compared to UAB's 19th ranking with an average opponent rushing offense ranking 92nd. Northern Illinois should have more success stopping the run in this one, and that will open things up for Sutton Smith to continue to feast on opposing QB's. The All-American has 15 sacks and just finds ways to get to the QB, and that's bad news for a UAB team that has thrown 15 interceptions this year.
Northern Illinois poor offensive performances have been due to injury, and strength of schedule. They have faced 3 power 5 school teams and BYU. They are one of the few teams that did not schedule an FCS opponent, and they have faced 10 total bowl teams compared to UAB who has faced just 5. Northern Illinois also has the TO margin advantage, special teams and UAB lost 41-6 to a MAC team a season ago.
Where to find Freddy?