Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Arkansas St vs No Illinois 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl Game Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 1/8/12: The MAC and the Sun Belt conferences aren’t known for their powerhouse football programs, but Sunday night, two of the more entertaining teams in the country will go head to head when the Arkansas State Red Wolves (10-2) meet the Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3) in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. The Huskies needed several come-from-behind wins to ultimately win the MAC, including a second-half rally in the conference title game after falling behind 20-0. Meanwhile, the Red Wolves rolled through the Sun Belt, posting a perfect conference record and winning their final six games by double digits. Now, the tool schools will try to cap their impressive seasons with a bowl victory in a game where Arkansas State is favored by just 1 ½ points.
Both teams bring dynamic offenses to the table. The Red Wolves average 32.5 points per game, while the Huskies have been even better, averaging 40.0 points per game. Although both offenses are somewhat balanced, Northern Illinois relies mainly on a rushing attack that ranks 10th in the country, while Arkansas State is powered by a passing attack that ranks inside the top 20. Although both offenses have been productive this year, the Huskies have been the more effective unit to date.
While Northern Illinois has been better on offense, the Red Wolves have a definite advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Arkansas State ranks in the top 15 nationally, giving up less than 20 points a game. The Red Wolves have an excellent defensive front that has been effective at stopping the run and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In contrast, the Huskies have been downright awful on defense at times, and for the year, they are allowing more than 31 points per game. At times, Northern Illinois won in spite of its defense.
Serious tests await both defenses Sunday, with two of the best dual-threat quarterbacks under center for both teams. Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for more than 1,300 yards and another 11 scores. Those numbers are even more impressive considering he threw just five interceptions and averaged well over seven yards per carry. Meanwhile, Arkansas State’s Ryan Aplin threw more than 3,200 yards this season and also led the team with more than 600 rushing yards. He combined for 27 total touchdowns, and while he completed more than 65 percent of his passes, he did throw 13 interceptions. As the stat sheet indicates, Harnish is probably the more explosive of the two playmakers.
The X-factor in the game could be Red Wolves’ receiver Dwayne Frampton. He has 90 catches for more than 1,100 yards on the season, and he top player at the position for either team. Against a Northern Illinois secondary that has been gashed at times, Frampton is the type of player that could take over the game. Aplin will likely look his way early and often, and if Frampton has a big game, Arkansas State could come away with the win.
In the end, there is something to be said about the experience of Northern Illinois in the postseason. The Huskies will be playing in their fourth straight bowl game, while the Red Wolves are making just their second bowl appearance in program history. Not to mention the fact that the MAC has proven itself an underrated conference both in the regular season and in the bowl season. Led by the playmaking ability of Harnish, the Huskies’ offense should be able to score points, even against a highly-rated Arkansas State defense. Northern Illinois’ struggles on defense will keep the game close, but the Huskies have enough offensive firepower to pull out a win.
Prediction: Northern Illinois Huskies (+2) Cover the Spread
Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: No Illinois +2 to cover the spread
|2012 Compass Bowl: Arkansas St vs No Illinois
Time: 9:00 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds – Favorite: Arkansas St -2 Total: Over/Under 65.5
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