Northern Illinois vs. Marshall Boca Rotan Bowl Pick – December 23rd

I started off on a good note in bowl season on Saturday. It looked like we were going to get a moose (screw job) on Utah State -10. UTEP couldn’t move the ball at all in the 2nd half, and of course, they moved the ball right down the field with minutes remaining down by 11 points. I thought they were going to go for it on 4th down because teams rarely play for the tie in bowl games, but they opted for the field goal which gave UTEP the cover for the time being. I figured the game was going to end that way; however, Utah State ran the ball in with about a minute left to give us all a big sigh of relief. The game went completely as expected on defense for Utah State. It wasn’t easy, and it was actually quite painful at times, but it was all money when the game was officially over. We got a rather entertaining game in the Miami Beach Bowl yesterday, with Memphis edging out BYU in double OT, 45-38. If you had BYU that is a frustrating loss. They were up then they were down, and then they came back again and ended up blowing the lead late on a 4th down to force overtime. Memphis also hit a 55 yard field to make this all possible. For as bad as college kickers have been this season as a whole, that was one impressive boot. The game concluded with a violent brawl between players with punches being thrown. Not quite the kind of behaviour you would expect from a Mormon football team. Anyway, let’s look towards the future and look to cash in and move to 2-0 for the college bowl season.

Yesterday was an entertaining matchup, and all indications are pointing to this one being fun as well. Marshall was 1 point away from playing in a pretty big bowl game, perhaps the Fiesta. However, a 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky bumped Marshall to 12-1 on the season. A 13-0 season would have made Marshall the only undefeated team in D1 college football. The schedule they played this year wouldn’t have put them near the top 4, though, to have a chance at earning a spot in the playoff. Nevertheless, they more than likely threw away a New Years Day game due to that loss. Their consolation prize is a matchup against the winners of the MAC, the Northern Illinois Huskies in the Boca Raton Bowl. This will be the first Boca Raton Bowl, and it is a prestigious bowl at that. Okay, I don’t want to confuse anybody that isn’t familiar with college football, this is a lower tier bowl game. But we have a 12-1 Marshall team against Northern Illinois who enters at 11-2, so this game features two top teams from their respective conferences. Hopefully that means this becomes a watchable game, and more importantly, hopefully a game we can make money off of. Read below for the pick.

Northern Illinois vs. Marshall Spread and Betting Odds:

Northern Illinois +10 (-110)
@ Marshall -10 (-110)

Game Total:
Over 67(-110)
Under 67(-110)

Betting odds provided by

Northern Illinois vs. Marshall Pick:

The number one player to look out for in this game is senior quarterback Rakeem Cato of Marshall. This will be Cato’s last game at Marshall after an excellent career as the signal caller. Cato finished the 2012 season leading the nation in passing with 4,201 yards. He also added 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in that sophomore campaign. Cato only played in eight games this season due to an injury, so he goes into today with a touchdown to interception ratio of 20:6. Still another impressive year for him despite only playing in eight games. Given this, the offense is of course a well oiled machine. Think for a minute here, they lost a game where they scored 66 points. The Marshall offense routinely put up big numbers in 2014. It wasn’t until week 9 against Florida Atlantic University that they didn’t score more than 40 points, where they scored 35. The following week they went and piled on 63 points against Southern Mississippi. Note that Cato will be playing in front of family friends in his last game as a collegiate athlete. This game will be playing played not all that far from where he grew up. I expect Cato to go out with guns a blazing.

Northern Illinois are no strangers to offense either. The Huskies won their MAC championship by lighting Bowling Green up for 52 points. This program is used to having successful seasons the past several years. Marshall will poise a challenge for them tonight no doubt about that. This will undoubtedly be their stiffest test all season. Like I alluded to earlier, I expect Cato to have a big game, so the Huskies are going to need to dish the ball around and try and keep up with Marshall. I don’t know if their offense will be enough, but they should be able to keep it interesting. Starting quarterback for the Huskies, Drew Hare, has only 2 interceptions on the season to go along with 17 touchdowns, an unbelievable ratio. Hare also gets it done with his legs also, coming into the Boca Raton Bowl with 850 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. Over the last five weeks the Northern Illinois Huskies averaged 33 points per game. The point total probably isn’t going to get as the BYU/Memphis game, but there should be points to be had in this one. I liked Marshall at -7, but not at the current line of 10. Instead I’ll be on the OVER 67.


Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of The Sports Geek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at The Sports Geek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, and the NHL. Prior to writing for The Sports Geek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily at The Sports Geek.