The college football bowl season kicks off Friday with two games, including the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers clash with the Northern Illinois Huskies, champions of the MAC, in a battle between two of the best programs in the Group of Five this season.
Northern Illinois is also one of the biggest surprises of the year. The Huskies went 6-0 in the 2020 season shortened by COVID, Thomas Hammock’s second year, but recovered 9-4 this season and 6-2 in the conference game. They defeated Kent State in the MAC Championship Game and won their first Conference title since 2018 and fifth since 2011. The Huskies rode a productive rushing assault on their Conference title as they finished fifth across the country with 234.2 rushing yards per game.
Right behind them in sixth place? The Chanticleers. Coastal rushed for 231.3 yards per game and finished the regular season with a 10-2 record. Unfortunately for Jamey Chadwell’s program, her 6-2 Sun Belt record wasn’t good enough to win the East Division as one of those two losses was to Appalachian State, which ended 7-1 in conference play.
Carolina Coast vs. Northern Illinois: You Must Know What This Is
Grayson McCall is one of the most exciting players in the country: The Chanticleers may be a run-first team, but don’t get confused and think that they are in no position to throw the ball. Quarterback Grayson McCall helps in the run game (250 yards, four touchdowns), but his ability as a passer makes the coastal offensive difficult to stop. While McCall doesn’t have the overall gaudy passport numbers, his passport efficiency of 207.95 was the best in the country among qualified QBs, and not by a narrow margin. CJ Stroud from the US state of Ohio finished second with 182.24 seconds. McCall averaged over 12 yards per attempt that season and threw 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions, leading a coastal offensive averaging 40.4 points per game.
Rocky Lombardi helped ignite the season in northern Illinois: Northern Illinois had 63.7% of its games on the ball that season, the fifth highest rate in the country behind the three service academies and Minnesota, but Rocky Lombardi played a major role. The Michigan State transfer QB was a real double threat, fitting for 2,416 yards and 13 touchdowns while charging for 406 yards and eight touchdowns. More than the numbers show, Lombardi was able to make the game his team needed in all circumstances, and that helped the Huskies win so many close games – seven of NIU’s nine wins were one-score games – and drove them to a MAC title.
This is Coastal’s second appearance in the Cure Bowl: The Cure Bowl hasn’t been around for very long, having first played in 2015, but Coastal Carolina is the third team to make multiple appearances in the game. Last season, the Chanticleers played in the game and were ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll, but lost in overtime to No. 23 Liberty 37-34. Both teams were the first-placed teams to appear in the Cure Bowl, and Liberty made its second appearance in the game. The other school, which appears twice, rivals the Sun Belt Division of Coastal, Georgia State. This is Northern Illinois’ first appearance in the game and the first time a MAC team has played in the game.
How to watch Cure Bowl live
Game: Cure Bowl
date: Friday, December 17th | time: 6 pm ET
location: Exploria-Stadion – Orlando, FL
TV: ESPN2 | Live broadcast: fuboTV (Try it for free)
Cure Bowl Prediction, Tips
Featured game | Coastal Carolina Chanticleers vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
While Northern Illinois won its conference and is a great story, I worry about how its defense will hold up against this Coastal Carolina attack. Grayson McCall is the most dynamic and effective QB the Huskies have encountered this season, and while the Huskies love to let the ball run, they don’t do a good job defending it. Northern ranks 128 nationally in the EPA defensive (expected points added) against the run and 127th in the defensive success rate against the run. It’s hard to imagine that they could get enough stops in this game to stay within that range. Forecast: Carolina Coast (-10)
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