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How Motivated Is TCU In Bowl Games?
Once again the sight of Christmas trees marks the beginning of a length College Football Bowl season and things get kicked off Tuesday December 19th in San Diego. The combatants will be the TCU Horn Frogs and the Northern Illinois Huskies and they will be playing for the Poinsettia Bowl trophy.
Sportsbook.com is the largest online sportsbook and casino on the planet and they have jumped into the fray by offering their customers a point spread of TCU -12 and an over/under total of 47. On the surface this game has the makings of a blowout as TCU has the 4th ranked defense in the nation and Northern Illinois has the leading rusher in Garrett Wolfe who comes into this game with 1900 yards.
The problem for Wolfe is his supporting cast that is very inexperienced with features a second year quarterback, 3 sophomore receivers and a junior tight end.
TCU coach Gary Patterson is a defensive guru and he will stack the line with 8 or 9 players and force NI to throw. Pick your poison here as TCU held the pass happy Texas Tech Red Raiders to just 3 points, so don't expect Northern Illinois to win by the pass.
The main reason the Huskies received a bowl bid is the improved play of the defense. Ranked near the bottom of several key categories in the conference after the first six games, the NIU defense blanked Eastern Michigan in the final regular season game and held Central Michigan to 10 points. The defense ranks a respectable 80th in the country, surrendering 357.0 yards per game.
TCU has it going offensively, thanks to QB Jeff Ballard. The Frogs have averaged 45 points and 535.7 yards per game over their last three games. Perhaps even more critical to their bowl hopes is the fact that the offense has averaged 33 minutes and 32 seconds in time of possession in those three games. Ballard has been virtually unstoppable, which could make Northern Illinois hard-pressed to stick with the running game if it falls behind.
TCU has the No. 4 rushing defense and the No. 4 team defense in the nation (249.5 yards allowed per game). It is lagging behind in scoring defense - the Frogs are only No. 5 in the country at 12.8 point allowed. It held Air Force QB Shaun Carney to minus-16 yards rushing last week, and he's an option quarterback. It did surrender 71 yards to New Mexico RB Rodney Ferguson in week nine, including 65 yards in the second half. But after forcing only five turnovers in the first five games of the season, the defense forced 25 over its final seven games.
TCU are 8-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and TCU are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games overall. TCU 8-3 ATS - Huskies 4-7.
Is TCU motivated to play this game? Year after year in bowl games, we consistently see underdog teams rise up and win or grab easy cover in bowl games. Football players are creatures of habit and playing a game with 17 days rest is an issue to consider. Northern Illinois was a double digit underdog just once this year, +16 at Iowa. Iowa won 24-14!
About the Author: Bob is an experienced sports writer and handicapper who has written for the sports industry for over a decade. He has been a regular contributer to Sports Scene, a sports consultant for television's 33 Made and other major motion pictures.