Game played at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Boise State Broncos vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (+8, 56)
SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL STORYLINES
1. Two teams that had loftier expectations will share the gridiron when Boise State squares off with Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Boise State was looking to repeat as the Group of Five’s representative in a New Year’s Six bowl but the Broncos underachieved with three losses in Mountain West play and stand at 8-4. The Huskies had similar aspirations after five consecutive seasons of 11 or more victories but are now attempting to avoid their first six-loss season since 2009.
2. Boise State is averaging 37.8 points behind freshman quarterback Brett Rypien, who was in line to redshirt in his first season on campus until sophomore Ryan Finley suffered a season-ending ankle injury. The nephew of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien was ready for the challenge and passed for 2,973 yards and 17 touchdowns while winning Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors. Northern Illinois has done some quarterback shuffling of its own as junior starter Drew Hare (Achilles’ tendon) and redshirt freshman backup Ryan Graham (leg) both were injured and freshman Tommy Fiedler is currently slated to make his second career start.
3. Huskies sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry stands just 5-8 but he is a player quarterbacks are learning to avoid as he leads the nation with nine interceptions and is averaging 30.3 yards per return. “It just comes from practicing hard every day and taking practice seriously and the (defensive) line putting pressure on the quarterback,” Lurry recently told reporters. “When they do that, the quarterback just throws the ball up in the air and I’ll be in the right area sometimes and I get it.” The Broncos (22) have even more interceptions than Northern Illinois (21) and feature senior safety Darian Thompson, who had five picks this season and is the Mountain West’s all-time leader with 19.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened NIU as 8.5-point dogs but that has moved to +8. The total opened at 56.
Boise State – WR Shane Williams-Rhodes (Probable, ankle), CB Donte Deayon (Probable, knee), WR Austin Cottrell (Questionable, leg), S Darian Thompson (Questionable, concussion), QB Ryan Finley (Out indefinitely, ankle), TE David Lucero (Out indefinitely, suspension), WR Akilian Butler (Out indefinitely, undisclosed), S Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Out indefinitely, ankle), OL Rees Odhiambo (Out for season, ankle), Gabe Perez (Out for season, shoulder).
Northern Illinois – QB Ryan Graham (Probable, leg), WR Tommylee Lewis (Questionable, ankle), DT Corey Thomas (Out for season, knee), QB Drew Hare (Out for season, lower body).
WEATHER INFO: Temperatures in the low-60s under partly cloudy skies.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS, 6-6 O/U): Sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols is tied for the national lead with 23 touchdowns (18 rushing, five receiving) and has rushed for 1,244 yards while posting seven 100-yard performances. Junior receiver Thomas Sperbeck leads the Mountain West in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,334) – with the latter total breaking the school single-season mark set by Titus Young (1,210 in 2010). Thompson and senior cornerback Donte Deayon (17 career interceptions, four this season) head the secondary while junior defensive end Kamalei Correa has a team-leading five sacks for a unit with 28 takeaways.
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-5 SU, 7-4-2 ATS, 6-7 O/U): The Huskies figure to give junior running back Joel Bouagnon (1,269 yards, 18 touchdowns) a heavy workload to help take pressure off Fiedler, who was 12-of-28 for 152 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in a 34-14 loss to Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Junior receiver Kenny Golladay (71 receptions for 1,122 yards and 10 touchdowns) is a big-play threat on offense while MAC Special Teams Player of the Year Aregeros Turner – a junior – averages 25.2 yards with one touchdown on kickoff returns. Senior middle linebacker Boomer Mays (108 tackles) and senior defensive end Perez Ford (five sacks) join Lurry as the headliners on a defense that forced 27 turnovers.
* Broncos are 1-4 ATS in their last five games in December.
* Huskies are 2-6 ATS in their last eight bowl games.
* Under is 5-2 in Broncos last seven vs. MAC.
* Under is 12-5 in Huskies last 17 neutral site games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-three percent of Covers users are backing the Broncos.
Game played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Bowling Green Falcons (-7.5, 64)
GODADDY BOWL STORYLINES
1. With one of the most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the game, MAC champion Bowling Green will be looking to match a school record for wins set in 2003 when it faces Georgia Southern on Dec. 23 in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Dino Babers posted an 8-6 record in his first season at the helm in 2014, and now has the Falcons on the verge of consecutive bowl wins for the second time in school history (2003-04). Bowling Green ranks in the top five in FBS in scoring (43.4 points per game), passing offense (376 yards per game) and total offense (561 yards per game).
2. Led by second-year coach Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern is making its first bowl appearance in its first year of bowl eligibility. A power in the Division I-AA ranks, the Eagles won national championships in 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999 and 2000. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference with a perfect 8-0 record last season and finished third this season, and the Eagles took Georgia to overtime before falling 23-17 on Nov. 21.
3. Bowling Green and Georgia Southern enter with drastically different offensive approaches. The Falcons boast one of the most potent passing games in the country with MAC Offensive Player of the Year Matt Johnson throwing to Paul Warfield Award-winning wide receiver Roger Lewis. The Eagles, on the other hand, rely on a triple-option run attack that averages 355 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry and received a combined 2,320 yards from Matt Breida and L.A. Ramsby.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Bowling Green as a 7.5-point favorite. The total is down to 64 from the opening 66.
Georgia Southern – OL Roscoe Byrd (Questionable, undisclosed).
Bowling Green – RB Donovan Wilson (Questionable, undisclosed), DL Mike Minns (Out, suspension), OL Christian Piazza (Out for season, undisclosed), K Anthony Farinella (Out indefinitely, back), DL Gus Schwieterman (Out for season, foot).
WEATHER INFO: Temperatures in the low-70s with an 87 percent chance of thunderstorms. Wind is expected to blow toward the north endzone at around 10 miles per hour.
ABOUT GEORGIA SOUTHERN (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS, 5-7 O/U): A potent running attack has allowed the Eagles to top 40 points seven times this season and is led by the 5-11, 190-pound junior Breida, who has rushed for 1,540 yards, 16 touchdowns and an 8.2 yards-per-carry average. Georgia Southern threw just 129 passes all season and sophomore Kevin Ellison enters having completed only 44 percent of his 84 passes for 532 yards and three touchdowns against five interceptions. The Eagles yield 23 points per contest and 204 passing yards per game but have recorded just 21 sacks.
ABOUT BOWLING GREEN (10-3 SU, 10-3 ATS, 6-7 O/U): Johnson, who has completed 368-of-535 passes for 43 touchdowns against eight interceptions, leads FBS with 4,700 yards passing and ranks eighth in passer efficiency rating (166.1). Lewis caught 82 passes for an FBS-high 1,476 yards and joins Ryan Burbrink (56 catches, 627 yards) and Ronnie Moore (67 catches, 871 yards) as receivers who have recorded 2,000 yards receiving in their careers. Running backs Travis Greene (1,219 yards) and Fred Coppet (797) have combined for 19 TDs and 5.8 yards per carry.
* Eagles are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games.
* Falcons are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Eagles last six games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Falcons last four bowl games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Seventy percent of Covers users are backing the Falcons.
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