The final warm-up game of the 2011 college football bowl season for this weekend prior to the big finale Monday night features two of the hottest teams in college football with the Arkansas St. Red Wolves (10-2) of the Sun Belt Conference traveling to Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3) of the Mid-American Conference this Sunday evening (9:00pm ET) in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Arkansas St. has won nine straight games coming into this matchup, averaging 38 points per game over their final six games. NIU has won eight straight to close their regular season, failing to cover in each of their final three games, including a 23-20 win over the Bobcats of Ohio University in their finale in which they were favored by 3.5 points going into the game. Arkansas St. is 10-2 ATS this season, while NIU is 5-8 ATS this year.
The Red Wolves rank 26th among FBS teams in scoring offense with 33.5 points per game on average, and 23rd in total offense with 453.8 yards per game. The Arkansas St. defense ranks 14th in the nation in scoring defense with 19.3 PPG allowed and 21st in total defense with 325.7 YPG allowed. NIU boasts one of the most explosive offensive units in the country with dual-threat quarterback Chandler Harnish (2,942 yards passing, 26 TDs, 1,382 yards rushing 11 TDs) their most pivotal player. NIU ranks 13th in scoring offense with 38.3 PPG and 10th in total offense with 481.7 YPG. The Huskies’ defense ranks 89th in scoring defense with 31.1 PPG allowed and 89th in total defense with 418.1 YPG allowed.
Arkansas St. vs. Northern Illinois Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Arkansas St. Red Wolves -1.5
@Northern Illinois Huskies +1.5
Over 64.5 (-110)
Under 64.5 (-110)
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Arkansas St. vs. Northern Illinois Pick:
Arkansas St. is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite and 6-1 TAS in their last 7 games overall. NIU is 5-14 ATS in their last 19 games against a team with a winning record and 1-8 ATS in their last 9 neutral site games. The under is 12-3-1 in Arkansas State’s last 16 non-conference games and 16-4-2 in their last 22 games against a team with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in NIU’s last 5 neutral site games as an underdog and 7-1 in their last 8 neutral site games. The two teams have had no recent meetings and Arkansas St. has played once in a bowl game prior to this year, a 31-19 loss to Southern Miss in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
Northern Illinois has faced tougher completion than Arkansas State has this year playing in the MAC, rolling through the conference to their first championship since 1983. The Huskies have scored 40 or more points in nine games this season, and have run up a large point total in a bowl game as recently as last season. NIU rolled to a 40-17 win over Fresno St. in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl, a game in which Harnish threw for 300 yards and a TD while running for 72 yards and two more TDs. The woeful NIU defense will allow Arkansas State’s prolific offense, led by Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Aplin (3,235 yards passing, 18 TDs, and 605 yard rushing with 9 TDs) plenty of opportunities to stay in the game as well. Arkansas State will be led by interim coach David Gunn after their Head Coach Hugh Freeze left to take the top job at Ole Miss, which means he will not have any incentive to hold anything back if he wants to impress potential employers or the new incoming head coach. Look for both teams to let it fly down in Mobile and for the total to come in over.