Fresno State Bulldogs (8-4, 5-3 WAC) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3, 8-0* MAC)
December 18 - 5:30 pm - ESPN
$750,000 payout per team
Northern Illinois and Fresno State will meet in the fourteenth playing of the Humanitarian Bowl, which first started in 1996. This is Northern Illinois' first trip to the Humanitarian Bowl, while Fresno State has made two appearances, winning each of them. Most recently, Fresno State beat Georgia Tech 40-28 in the 2007 edition of the Humanitarian Bowl. Last season, Idaho beat Bowling Green in a high scoring affair, 43-42.
These two teams have faced each other four times previously, with each school winning twice. Northern Illinois came out victorious in the last meeting, a 55-7 drubbing of the Bulldogs in 1991.
Northern Illinois enters this matchup as MAC West Division Champions and finished the season with an undefeated conference record and an overall record of 10-2. However, NIU lost to Miami (Ohio) in the MAC championship game. The Huskies’ head coach Jerry Kill has left the team to take the head coaching job at Minnesota; coaching the Humanitarian Bowl will be longtime assistant Tom Matukewicz. Fresno State’s season has been somewhat disappointing, finishing fourth in the WAC with a 5-3 conference record and 8-4 overall record. Led by well respected head coach Pat Hill, the Bulldogs look to put a positive finish on what has an underachieving season for Fresno State.
- Analysis for SBN Pittsburgh by Aaron Hawley
SBN PITTSBURGH BOLD PREDICTION - Northern Illinois 31, Fresno State 24
Aaron - NIU
Anson - Fresno St.
Jeff - Fresno St.
Northern Illinois is making its third consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in school history and is 2-3 all-time in bowl games. Even though the Huskies lost a heartbreaker in the MAC title game, they still have a chance to go for a school-record 11 wins. Fresno State is making its fourth straight bowl game and is in the Humanitarian for the first time since 2007. -- Andrea Adelson
NIU head coach Jerry Kill is off to Minnesota, and after the stunning gag against Miami (Ohio) in the MAC Championship, this hasn't been a good week for the Huskies. Fresno State would rather be playing a BCS, brand-name team, but beating Illinois in the regular-season finale will have to do. The NIU running game vs. the aggressive Bulldogs pass rush should be worth the price of admission.
The Humanitarian Bowl is one of the first ones to be played this bowl season, and may also be one of the first to be rendered almost completely worthless as a predictor of future performance.
Northern Illinois and Fresno State will link up to play in the Humanitarian Bowl on December 18 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern at Boise State's Bronco Stadium in Boise, but the chances that Jerry Kill will be the Huskies' coach in the game dwindle with every passing hour.
That's because Kill has agreed to become the next coach at Minnesota, according to Minnesota's Rivals site. He'll leave a very good Northern Illinois team for that job with the Golden Gophers, one that could win its bowl game without him but would be helped by his presence.
But there's no way that anything about this bowl should be used to forecast 2011 results. The Huskies will be a team in limbo, and Fresno State is a perpetual enigma.
* - Northern Illinois lost in the MAC Championship Game to Miami (OH)