The Humanitarian Bowl pits 10-3 Northern Illinois against 8-4 Fresno State, tonight at 5:30 Eastern, on ESPN as usual. The teams take to the blue turf in Boise, Idaho, an outdoor field where the weather calls for a near 100% chance of snow and/or rain, with a high of 36 degrees.
NIU arrives by way of the MAC Championship game, where they lost to Miami in what has to be seen as a massive upset, following an 8-0 MAC season. Along the way, they picked up a Big 10 win over Minnesota, joining the parade of teams to accomplish that feat this year.
The Huskies, except for the Miami game, have been near impossible to stop and just as hard to score on, still ranking in the top 20 nationally in both stats. They haven’t been held under 20 since week 1, and beat the second best team in their division 65-30 a few weeks ago. If they can bounce back from losing the championship game, they’ll be difficult to beat tonight.
The Bulldogs quietly put together another nice season in the shadows of Boise State and Nevada. They picked up two BCS conference wins, taking down Cincinnati and Illinois, and went 5-3 in the conference. They only lost consecutive games once, to the leagues top two teams over six days.
The defense may be a bit suspect, but facing Boise State & Nevada will wreck any defensive stats. Fresno is giving up 29 points per game, matched with the 30 they’re scoring each week, which has left them in as many close games as you would imagine.
On paper, this one should belong to Northern Illinois. But the tough loss to end the year, Fresno’s familiarity with the blue turf (they were there less than a month ago), and their confidence coming in off two good wins could even the score. NIU is favored by 1.5, but I think I’m going to predict a win for Fresno State, 34-30.