Boise State (8-4) vs Northern Illinois (8-5)
When: Wednesday, December 23rd 2015
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Time: 4:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Two teams that were hoping to compete for a New Year’s Six Bowl game will have to settle for the Poinsettia Bowl as Boise State and Northern Illinois meet on Wednesday. Boise State uncharacteristically lost three conference games this season as freshman Brett Rypien was forced into action after the season-ending injury to quarterback Ryan Finley. 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. He threw six interceptions in two losses to Utah State and New Mexico that prevented the Broncos from winning another Mountain West title. Sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols is tied for the lead in FBS with 23 total touchdowns (18 rushing, 5 receiving) and has rushed for 1,244 yards while posting seven 100-yard performances. Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck leads the Mountain West in receptions (82) and receiving yards. His 1,334 yards receiving broke the school single-season mark set by Titus Young (1,210 in 2010). Defensively, the Broncos are pretty solid ranking 24th overall and 11th against the run. Boise State also forced 28 turnovers this season and senior cornerback Donte Deayon had four interceptions (17 career).
Northern Illinois competed in the competitive MAC West and managed to win that division only to fall to Bowling Green in the championship game. The Huskies are on their third quarterback 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. Fiedler was shaky in his first appearance (MAC Title game) and was 12-for-28 for 152 yards and three interceptions. Look for running back Joel Bouagnon, who rushed for 1,269 yards and 18 touchdowns to get a heavy workload to help take pressure off Fiedler. 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 averages 25.2 yards with one touchdown on kickoff returns. Middle linebacker Boomer Mays (108 tackles) and senior defensive end Perez Ford (five sacks) lead the front seven on a defense that forced 27 turnovers. Cornerback Shawun Lurry leads the nation with nine interceptions and is averaging 30.3 yards per return.
I watched Fielder play against Bowling Green and it wasn’t good. NIU will have to rely on their running game and that plays into Boise’s strength. Rypien has been getting better as the season progresses and I think he has a big game and Boise runs away with it.
Pick: Boise State -9