The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.
Quick Lane Bowl
Duke (6-6) vs. Northern Illinois (8-4)
Spread: Duke -5
Spread: David Cutcliffe once again has Duke back in a bowl game after missing the postseason last year. The Blue Devils have now made bowls in five of the last six years. This year, they did it by playing stingy defense, allowing just about 21 points and under 340 yards per game. Linebacker Joe Giles-Harris leads the way with 117 tackles, 15.5 of those for loss, and 3.5 sacks on the season. Fellow ‘backer Ben Humphreys is questionable with a leg injury, but if he can play, that will be a huge boon considering his 64 tackles, 8.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks this season.
On offense, QB Daniel Jones leads an attack that averaged under 26 points and 378 yards per game this season. Jones has been inconsistent as a passer, completing 55 percent of his attempts this year with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has shown some mobility, adding 432 yards on 145 carries and six touchdowns. He, along with running backs Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown (263 carries 1,403 yards 11 TDs combined) have been the most effective part of the Blue Devils offense, averaging 168+ yards on the ground per game.
For NIU, their defensive strength is in stopping the run, ranking 11th in the country, allowing just 112 yards per game. They do play in the MAC, which isn’t the same level of competition Duke faced (obviously), but against Boston College and Nebraska, they allowed just 233 yards on 86 carries (2.7 YPC). They were similarly stout against San Diego State and Rashaad Penny, allowing just 127 yards on 36 carries (3.5 YPC).
The problems come on offense where the QB spot has been a revolving door since starter Ryan Graham went down with an elbow injury in the second week of the season. Freshman Marcus Childers has gotten the last eight starts and he’s been solid, throwing for 1,400+ yards and 15 touchdowns with only five interceptions. But, he’s completing just 57 percent of his passes. He faces a tough Blue Devils pass defense that has allowed just 174 yards per game (6.95 YPA) and 15 touchdowns all season. The Huskies do have a good running game to lean on, with Childers combining with Jordan Huff, Marcus Jones and Tre Harbison combining to help them average 190+ yards per game.
Neither team really stands out ATS this season as NIU was 6-6 and Duke was 6-5-1. As an underdog, the Huskies have played well, going 3-1 and they did stay within 3 points against Boston College, win against Nebraska and fall by just 6 to SDSU. One other point to consider, the Blue Devils have dismissed kicker/punter Austin Parker from the program, and that’s big considering he attempted all but one extra point and had 61 of the team’s 62 punts. NIU +5
Total: Duke surpassed the number just three times all season, but the Huskies were dead even at 6-6. NIU has hit the over in each of the last three games, but in their three big games (BC, Nebraska, SDSU) they were just 1-2 against the number. Both defenses have been good this season while the offenses have struggled to score at times. Under 47.5