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2008 Independence Bowl Preview

Louisiana Tech (7-5, 5-3 WAC) vs. Northern Illinois (6-6, 5-3 MAC)

December 28th, 2008 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Shreveport, Louisiana

The Independence Bowl features two non-BCS teams matching up to fill in slots for bigger conferences which couldn’t provide enough bowl eligible teams. For example, last year the Independence Bowl featured Colorado and Alabama. This year, it features Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois, a far less exciting match up.

Northern Illinois comes into the game struggling, losers of three of their last four. The Huskies have had their share of close losses, losing four games by four points or less. However, two of their last three losses came in blowout fashion. That said, the Huskies have been fairly solid on defense, holding opponents to 16 points or less seven times this year. Their offense hasn’t been nearly as stellar, thanks to issues at quarterback and the lack of a go-to tailback. Freshman quarterback Chandler Harnish is probably their most dangerous running threat, though he is still a very unpolished passer. Look at some of these scores from this season: 29-26, 13-9, 17-13, 16-13, 16-0. NIU plays a lot of ugly football games and they haven’t been winning those ugly games recently.

Louisiana Tech breathed a big sigh of relief in early December when Auburn passed over hiring head coach Derek Dooley. Dooley had been a serious candidate for the job and losing him after the progress Louisiana Tech has made would have been a serious blow. Instead, the Bulldogs come into the game winners of four of their last five thanks to a strong running game. Tech averages nearly 200 yards per game on the ground and has become more two dimensional in recent weeks as sophomore quarterback Ross Jenkins has grown into the position. After some early struggles, his completion percentage and yards have gone way up, culminating in a 258 yard, 2 touchdown effort to close the regular season. That growth has been huge because the defense has not played very well down the stretch, allowing over 30 points in four of the last five games.

This game will be decided by Northern Illinois’ ability to defend the run. It is no secret what Louisiana Tech wants to do, the only questions is whether you can stop them. I don’t think that NIU will be able to slow down the Tech rushing attack because over the season’s last four games they allowed opponents to run for an average of 198 yards per game. That’s not very good. While NIU will put some points on the board, it won’t be enough to beat the Bulldogs in a game that will take place only a few hours from their campus. Louisiana Tech will celebrate holding onto Coach Dooley by beating Northern Illinois in the Independence Bowl.

Independence Bowl Pick: Louisiana Tech 30 - Northern Illinois 20


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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