After suffering two consecutive upset losses in the New Mexico Bowl, Fresno State returns to the location where it last won a bowl game, the blue smurf turf of Bronco Stadium at Boise State. It was there that the Bulldogs defeated Georgia Tech 40-28 in the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl for their only postseason win in their last four tries.
Unfortunately for Fresno State fans, the Congrove Computer Rankings project the Bulldogs (8-4) as a 7.13-point underdog against Northern Illinois in this year's contest. However, the computer forecast doesn't take into account the absence of NIU head coach Jerry Kill who was hired by Minnesota following a 10-3 campaign that culminated in a MAC Championship game loss to Miami (Ohio). Linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz will serve as interim head coach for the bowl game, though Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren was hired as the new head coach on December 13.
The computer had forecasted a 9-3 season for Fresno State and an 8-4 season for Northern Illinois. Both teams performed close to those expectations.
Northern Illinois has come up empty in its last 3 bowl appearances while being outscored by a cumulative count of 84-20. The Huskies lost 37-7 to TCU in the 2006 Poinsettia Bowl, 17-10 to Louisiana Tech in the 2008 Independence Bowl, and 27-3 to USF in last year's International Bowl.
Northern Illinois' last bowl victory came in the now-defunct 2004 Silicon Valley Classic when it downed Troy 34-21.
Overall, Northern Illinois sports a 2-3 bowl record while Fresno State is 10-9.
Fresno State is 11-4 overall vs. current MAC teams, while the Huskies are 9-15 vs. current members of the WAC.
The two schools have split their 4 previous meetings, the last of which occurred in 1991. Northern Illinois won 73-18 in DeKalb in 1990, but the Bulldogs avenged that loss the following year with a 55-7 home win.
NIU has the nation's 21st-ranked offense with nearly 60% of its production coming via the ground. The Huskies are 27th in total defense.
Fresno State averages nearly 75 yards less per game than Northern Illinois. The Bulldogs rank just 71st in total offense and over 57% of their production has come through the air. Fresno State ranks 50th in defense even though it allowed 49 or more points to three different opponents - Mississippi, Hawaii and Boise State.
Northern Illinois never allowed more than 30 points in a game all season and held eight opponents to 21 or fewer points while going 8-0 in those particular games.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 18.