- Time: Wednesday, 2:30pm MT
- Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
- Weather: 63 degrees, mostly cloudy
- Odds: Boise State by 8.5
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM
- Commentators: Beth "Flowin'" Mowins, David "The Spanish Hyphen" Diaz-Infante, Shelley "The Fighter" Smith
1. Underwhelmed much?
NIU and Boise State have been two of the premier "Group of 5" teams over the last decade...and NIU even got in on the BCS fun in 2013 (although the results were less fun). However, neither team quite met expectations in 2015 for one reason or another and both have something to prove in Wednesday's contest. It is worth noting, that Poinsettias are mildly toxic to dogs. Last I checked, a Huskie (Husky...what's with the spelling, guys) is a dog. NIU probably won't die, but it might be best to lay down some visqueen or something first.
Neither NIU nor Boise State will put the quarterback on the field they started the season with. That fact might be a little more worrisome for the Huskies, however. Starting QB Drew Hare was having a pretty solid season, with nearly 2,000 yards, 14 TDs and just 4 INTs when he was injured against Toledo...in came QB Ryan Graham, who helped the Huskies complete their upset of #24 Toledo. Graham filled in fairly capably for Hare until he himself was injured against Ohio forcing Tommy Fiedler into the starting role. NIU headman Rod Carey says Graham will be ready to go for the bowl game, but he may not be 100%. The Boise State secondary has hit some speedbumps this year, but I think it's safe to say that facing Tommy Fiedler on Wednesday would help pad those interception numbers nicely. Of course, if Graham can't go and Fiedler gets injured, we'll get to see how good a quarterback NIU's punter is!
3. Everyone's All-American
Boise State's Darian Thompson landed on several All-America lists, but NIU's sophomore corner Shawun Lurry collected even more hardware. Lurry, who currently leads the country in interceptions, was named a first-team All-American by the FWAA...just the second Huskie so honored since 1944 (and one of just two G5 honorees this season). He's gonna be the guy to cover Sperbeck, isn't he? Well, passing game...it was nice knowing you.
Having trouble stirring up hatred for NIU? This should help.
Boise State - Won 1
Northern Illinois- Lost 2
Best name on their roster
Senior LB Boomer Mays gets the nod.
Best player picture on their roster
I just can't get over the "O'doyle Rules" vibe I'm getting from freshman O-lineman Robert Kraklow
Players to watch
I mentioned this dude before, but it's come to my attention that Lurry is THAT dude. A first-team All-American and the hawkiest of ballhawks...this soph corner is a good guy to play "keepaway" with. In "also bad" news...their other corner, Paris Logan, was a first-team All-MAC player in 2014. Fun fact: he was a high-school teammate of Jonathan Moxey.
Great name. Great player. Senior LB Boomer Mays leads all Huskies with 92 tackles on the year, with sole possession of 59 of them. Mays was a Lombardi watch-lister this season and played like it. I'd Sooner not play against Boomer...but whaddya gonna do? #DoYouSeeWhatIDidThere
The quarterback position is kinda important and it's also kinda important (for the Huskies) that the quarterback is Ryan Graham on Wednesday. Sure, he isn't as prolific as Drew Hare, but he gives NIU the best chance to win and I assume that's something their team would like to do—if not, it's cool...our guys can just hang out at SeaWorld for a few days. Anyhoo, Graham—if healthy—gives the Huskies a fighting chance as the frosh signal-caller is a capable passer (653 yards, 6 TDs) and a pretty good runner (153 yards). Exactly the type of QB that the Broncos have struggled with in 2015. Oh good.
You a fan of Jeremy McNichols? Meet his MAC doppelganger, RB Joel Bouagnon. Bouagnon has 18 rushing TDs on the year, just like The Weapon...and he has 25 more rushing yards on the year—albeit on 50 more attempts...BUT STILL. Bouagnon, a junior, has a lot of eery similarities to the Broncos sophomore ball-carrier but there is one big difference that may be of interest to Bronco linebackers—he's 6'2" 230 lbs. Get ready for David Diaz-Infante to beat us over the head with this fact for 3 and a half hours on Wednesday.
We've already established that the Huskies have themselves a Jeremy McNichols...therefore you're probably not overly surprised that they also have a Thomas Sperbeck (I was really hoping they didn't have a Sperbeck). Junior wideout Kenny Golladay isn't the only receiving weapon at NIU's disposal, but he's clearly the best...having hauled in 71 passes for 1,122 yards and 10 scores this season. Golladay is big (6'4" 200 lbs), can catch, and has a fake-sounding name. What more could you want?
Players NOT to watch
A couple of All-MAC performers from last season have moved on due to graduation, but overall...I'm pretty pleased that Jordan Lynch exhausted his eligibility.
Keys to victory
- Pressure. Whether or not the Huskies have their best available option under center on Wednesday makes little difference if the Broncos can't get in that guy's grill and force him to make bad throws. The Broncos have the front four to do so, but will Yates dial up on the pressure on probably-Graham? One can hope.
- Air it out. It seems counter-intuitive with the playmakers that NIU has in the secondary, but they aren't terribly efficient against the pass. In fact, NIU is all the way in 95th in the country in pass defense and allow 233.4 yards a game, on average. Yes, they are good at creating turnovers, but when they aren't...there are yards to be had.
- Takeaways. Around this time of year it's important to remember that it's better to give than receive. Throw this out the window on Wednesday though...get turnovers and DO NOT give them. Santa Claus is watching.
- Score more points. Our trusty game key hasn't been used in a few weeks. Hope it still works.
Broncos 31, Huskies 17