UAB Blazers vs. Northern Illinois Huskies Pick - Odds and ATS Predictions
The Northern Illinois Huskies (8-5) and UAB Blazers (10-3) will do battle in a clash in conference champions when the Conference USA meets the Mid-American Conference at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl. The two teams will face off on Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 at 7:00 PM ET and the contest will be aired on ESPN. The Huskies and Blazers have never crossed paths previously.
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UAB Blazers vs. Northern Illinois Huskies Overview
The Blazers come into this contest as the Conference USA Champion after they avenged a 27-3 loss in Murfreesboro, Tennessee by the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders when they followed up with a 27-25 win against the same team on their field, a week later. UAB owns a conference loss to Coastal Carolina in early September and a late-season defeat at Texas A&M to comprise their losses. At one point this season, the Blazers won eight straight.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Rod Carey's Huskies come into this contest off a thrilling 30-29 victory when they defeated the Buffalo Bulls in the MAC Championship, last Friday. The Huskies had endured a two-game losing streak in the build-up to the conference title game, but that had been chalked up to NIU protecting themselves from exposing key players after they had clinched the MAC West division three weeks before the championship game. In out of conference games, the Huskies recorded an impressive 7-6 road victory over BYU to go along with losses against Iowa, Utah, and Florida State. They were undefeated in conference play before they clinched their place in the MAC Championship game.
Reasons To Avoid Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois is the more recognized name in this bowl game, and as a result, they may be overpriced in this market. The Huskies are a stalwart in the post-season and have appeared in seven of the last nine Mid-American Conference Championship games. UAB only reprised their program two years ago after the Blazers folded up their tents and went on hiatus in 2014. As a result of these two narratives, the public perception is that NIU's experience is worth banking on and the market will inflict a premium here to back the Huskies.
Reasons To Back UAB
The Blazers will have more motivation here than their counterparts as an 11-win season, and their first bowl victory since playing football again will have tremendous meaning to the UAB program. A win here also silences any remaining dissenting opinions (if there are any) as to whether or not Blazer football should have continued. UAB will treat this game like a national championship as a win over a reputable mid-major outfit that has garnered a lot of notoriety over the years will serve as perhaps the biggest win for UAB since the Blazers retook the field. For Northern Illinois (a team that has gone to a BCS Bowl Game) this will be just another bowl game. The motivational edge provides equity in UAB.
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UAB vs. Northern Illinois Prediction 12/18/2018
Overall, UAB is the better balanced of the two teams as they are strong on both sides of the football. The Blazers own an offense that scores 29.3 points per game (62nd in the FBS) compared to NIU who put up just 20.7 points per outing (120th nationally). The Huskies offense is among the worst as they are 123rd in total offense (325 yards per game), UAB accrues 400.4 yards per game (67th nationally). On the defensive side, the Huskies boast a 14th ranked rushing defense that gives up 109.7 yards per game. However, UAB's defense is a top-ten unit in both scoring (17.3 points per game), and total defense (300.2 yards per game). Very simply, everything NIU can do, UAB can do better, and they use this venue to showcase how far their program has come. UAB wins big.