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Huskies vs. Bulldogs Preview/Pick: Independence Bowl

Independence Bowl Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Kudos to Jerry Kill, the first-year Northern Illinois coach who took a team that was 2-10 last year and turned it around somewhat, guiding the Huskies to a 6-6 record in the same year one of its alums, Michael Turner, became one of the most valuable players in the National Football League.  

BetUS NCAA Football Betting Odds: PICK’EM, Total 47.5

Here are some of the NCAA college football betting trends as they relate to this matchup:

* NIU has covered one of its last five games
* NIU has lost 17 of its last 25 games SU
* NIU has played three of its last four games OVER the total
* LT has won four of its last five games SU
* LT has played four of its last five games OVER the total

Louisiana Tech came on toward the end of the year, winning four of their last five games to qualify for a bowl. The Bulldogs didn’t necessarily rise to the occasion against the better teams in their schedule, losing to Kansas, Boise State and Hawai’i by a combined score of 91-17, but held their own and then some against other WAC foes, including Fresno State, which it beat by three points.

Louisiana Tech will rely on its running game to a considerable degree, and Daniel Porter was more than adequate in that department, rushing for 1086 yards, with four 100-yard games in his last five. As a team, the Bulldogs gained 4.8 yards a carry, but it was the way Tech dealt with the ground attacks of other teams that brought quite a bit of attention, as they held team to slightly under three yards an attempt and a hundred yards a game, to rank among the nation’s leaders. Ross Jenkins was respectable at quarterback, as he passed for 1011 yards, and its his ability to take care of the ball (three INT’s) that is most attractive about his play.

Northern Illinois surrendered just 18.1 points a game and 162.5 passing yards per contest, though (a) a lot of that defensive effort was against weak offensive teams, and (b) those pass defense figures are a little deceiving, since the team permitted 63% completions and recorded only six interceptions in its secondary. This team was competitive against the likes of Minnesota, Tennessee and Central Michigan, but also went through offensive droughts, as they did against Navy in a season-ending 16-0 shutout loss in which they gained only 191 total yards.

Freshman quarterback Chandler Harnish can run with the ball a little (478 yards) and that’s a good thing, because NIU, which has graduated people like the aforementioned Turner and Garrett Wolfe, struggled to get a running game going (Meco Brown had 508 yards, tops among running backs). But Harnish’s 57% completion rate and 7-7 ratio of TD’s to interceptions are not the kind of numbers that offer encouragement that he will exploit the weaknesses Louisiana tech may have on defense (280 pass yards allowed per game).

We see Louisiana tech as the team more likely to control the ball on the ground, less likely to commit turnovers, and a good candidate to make NIU one-dimensional on offense. Their fans are also quite a bit more excited about this game in nearby Shreveport than the NIU contingent. In this pick’em affair, we’ll gladly go with Louisiana Tech in the BetUS NCAA college football betting odds.

Our PLAY: LOUISIANA TECH pick ****

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