A couple of conference champions meet in Boca Raton for the Boca Raton Bowl on the campus of Florida Atlantic on Tuesday night. Motivation will be a big factor in this game. The Marshall Thundering Herd from Conference USA were hoping for bigger things, but a double overtime loss to Western Kentucky ended their dream of a perfect season. The Northern Illinois Huskies, who played in the Poinsettia Bowl last season and the Orange Bowl the season before that, don’t have the opportunity to play a major conference foe. This is a tough game to handicap.
Boca Raton Bowl- Marshall vs. Northern Illinois College Football Preview
Date/Time: Tuesday December 23, 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: FAU Football Stadium (Boca Raton, FL)
College Football Betting Odds from WagerWeb
College Football Betting Favorite: Marshall -10
Doc Holliday’s name has been thrown about for some bigger jobs, but he’s still at Marshall for the time being. Holliday’s Thundering Herd is 12-1 straight up, but just 8-5 against the spread. Marshall was favored by eight or more points in every game and 10 or more in every game before the C-USA Title Game. Holliday is now 39-25 straight up and 32-27-2 against the number. Rod Carey is now 23-4 straight up at NIU and 15-12 against the spread.
Marshall Thundering Herd:
Marshall’s offense ranked among the league’s best in both passing yards and rushing yards per game. Rakeem Cato will be playing his final game with Marshall and ends his career as the top quarterback in school history. The running game has been really productive behind Devon Johnson and Steward Butler. The Herd’s running backs have averaged 6.9 yards per carry and their 275.6 rushing yards per game rank seventh in the country. Marshall has scored over 40 points per game for the third straight season, this time ripping off 45 points per game. Defensively, Marshall only gave up 22 points per game, but the schedule that they played was very weak. There weren’t many worthwhile offenses on the schedule and NIU is certainly an upgrade to what they have seen.
Northern Illinois Huskies:
The Huskies took care of business in the MAC Championship Game in their rematch against Bowling Green. The Huskies also won at Western Michigan to put themselves in a position to win the MAC West, so this is a battle tested team down the stretch. Drew Hare took over after a couple of games and he was terrific. He posted a 17/2 TD/INT ratio and ran for 850 yards. Cameron Stingily led the Huskies with 895 yards on 30 more carries than Hare. The Huskies rushing attack averaged 5.2 yards per carry and found the end zone 35 times. The defense gave up 23.6 points per game, but Arkansas scored 52 against NIU to skew the numbers a bit. Over the last six games, the Huskies have not allowed more than 24 points.
Free Pick: Northern Illinois
This is a pretty big number, although it’s big for a reason. Cato has plenty of motivation in his final college game and against arguably the best defense Marshall has played this season. Both teams should be able to move the football and put up points in a game where the last team with the ball could win.
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