The 2014 bowl season continues with a Friday afternoon post-Christmas (1:00 pm ET) game featuring the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6) of the Big 10 Conference and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5) of the Conference USA West Conference in the Heart of Dallas Bowl from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX. Illinois defeated in-state rival Northwestern 47-33 on the road to clinch their bowl eligibility in the final game of the regular season. Louisiana Tech lost 26-23 to Marshall in the Conference USA Championship Game on December 6th.
Illinois is ranked 80th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 26.6 points per game and 53rd among FBS teams in total offense with 417.7 yards per contest. Freshman wide receiver Mike Dudek leads all freshmen nationally in receiving yards per game with 80.4, and was the Big-10’s top receiver in conference play, posting 50 catches for 716 yards.The Fighting Illini rank 112th nationally in points allowed with 33.9 per game and 105th in total defense 464.3 YPG allowed..
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Louisiana Tech is ranked 12th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 37.5 PPG scored and 61st among FBS teams in total offense with 403.8 YPG. The Bulldogs rank 54th nationally in points allowed with 25.2 per game and 31st in total defense 355.7 YPG allowed. Offensively they are led by running back Kenneth Dixon who has scored in a national high of 12 consecutive games and posted a conference best 26 total TDs this season. The Bulldogs’ defense forced the most takeaways in the country with 40, which led to a FBS-high 164 points off turnovers. They have registered at least 3 takeaways in each of their final 5 regular-seasons games, and have forced multiple TOs in all but 1 of their last 15 games dating back to last season.
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Illinois Fighting Illini +6
@ Louisiana Tech Bulldogs -6
Over 57.5 (-110)
Under 57.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Illinois vs Louisiana Tech Pick
The Fighting Illini are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games, 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against Conference USA and 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games following a ATS win. The Bulldogs are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 non-conference games, 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in December and 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games overall. The Under is 6-1 in the Fighting Illini’s last 7 neutral site games, 5-1 in their last 6 games against a Conference USA teams and 5-2 in their last 7 games against a team with a winning record. The Under is 4-0 in the Bulldogs’ last 4 neutral site games and 5-1 in their last 6 games in December.
The Fighting Illini lost to Louisiana Tech 52-24 at home in 2012 that saw them commit 6 turnovers, to begin a season-ending 9 game losing streak. They are 5-7 ATS this season, while Louisiana Tech is 10-3 ATS this year. The Illini defense did improve their play down the stretch, but they are facing one of the most explosive offenses in the country and a team that had their way with Illinois on their own home field just two seasons ago. The Bulldogs play much faster than the plodding Big-10 teams that Illinois is used to facing, and DIxon should have a field day against an Illinois defense that ranked 120th nationally with 249.6 YPG allowed. Take Louisiana Tech and give the points against what was one of the last teams to squeeze into a bowl game this season.