We are one day away from the national championship game, but on Sunday night, we have a dandy of a football game between two teams that have been rolling late in the season. The champions of the MAC and Sun Belt are on the ticket for this year’s GoDaddy.com Bowl, and if you can stay up late this evening, you’ll want to watch this game.
More: See the other bowl games
Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3, 7-1 MAC) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (10-2, 8-0 Sun Belt), 9:00 p.m. [ESPN]
Entering the postseason on a nine-game winning streak, Arkansas State won the Sun Belt with an 8-0 conference record. Their losses came at the hands of Virginia Tech and Illinois, who were both playing very good football at the time they faced the Red Wolves. They’re hanging more than 30 points on almost everyone they faced, and they’re scoring 40-plus more often than not lately.
Led by quarterback Ryan Aplin, who is the team’s leading passer and rusher, ASU will be a very confident bunch as they arrive in Mobile. Aplin was the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Year due to 3,235 passing yards, 605 rushing yards and a combined 22 touchdowns.
But Northern Illinois is looking just as strong, winning their final eight games. The Huskies won a very good MAC behind an awesome rushing attack, ranking eighth in the nation with 252.6 yards per game.
Guess who the leader in both rushing and passing has been in 2011 for NIU? You guessed it — their quarterback, Chandler Harnish. The MAC Offensive Player of the Year threw for 2,942 yards, ran for 1,382 yards and scored a combined 37 touchdowns. He owns a slew of school records, and his skills are impossible to admire.
If you saved a lot of confidence points for this game, you’re going to be sweating it out tonight.
ASU ranks No. 14 in scoring defense, allowing just 19.3 points per game. NIU ranks No. 13 in scoring offense, putting up 38.3 points per game. That’s where the most important battle will be, and if the Huskies can overcome that defense, they will score a boatload of points.
This definitely looks like it could turn into a shootout, because even though ASU has the ability to shut down a good offense, I believe in Harnish’s ability to do whatever he has to do to win the game.
As I’ve mentioned before in my bowl series, it’s a bad idea to bet against the MAC, so why start now?
My prediction: Northern Illinois 42, Arkansas State 30