Duke vs. Northern Illinois: Quick Lane Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Duke vs. Northern Illinois: Quick Lane Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

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Duke vs. Northern Illinois: Quick Lane Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Three reasons why you should watch the Quick Lane Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

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Quick Lane Bowl
Duke (6-6) vs. Northern Illinois (8-4)


Date: Tuesday, December 26th
Game Time: 5:15 pm
Venue: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
36 out of 39

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CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Quick Lane Bowl

It’s a good matchup that should be a solid game between teams around the same size. Duke is the Power Five team that struggled and sputtered, but has the talent to expect to beat the MAC team. Northern Illinois is more than just a normal Group of Five team – beating Nebraska earlier in the year – and beating the Blue Devils would make the season. Expect a good fight.

There might not be a program who needs a good bowl appearance more than Northern Illinois. The Huskies have been a total and complete disaster over the last four bowls, starting with the acceptable blowout to Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl, and followed up by a tough 21-14 battle in a 2013 Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah State.

That was bad, but getting blasted by Marshall 52-23 in the 2014 Boca Raton stunk, and last year, NIU didn’t even show up in the 55-7 loss to Boise State in the Poinsettia.

Duke isn’t all that great at this bowl thing, either. It’ll put forth the effort, and its last three bowls have all been close, but before beating Indiana in overtime of the 2015 Pinstripe, it lost five straight bowl games going back to 1989, and its previous bowl appearance before that was in the 1961 Cotton. Winning this bowl will matter.

Here’s Why Duke Will Win The Quick Lane Bowl

The Duke defensive front is good enough to get by. It’s not a rock, but it’s been able to hold its own against a whole slew of high-powered ground games. The overall stats don’t look that great, but the Blue Devils had to face Army and Georgia Tech over the last few weeks of the season, and had problems with Florida State and Pitt, too. NIU will grind things out, but the passing game is just okay, and the ground attack isn’t anything stellar.

America, meet Joe Giles-Harris. This might be the best Power Five player you haven’t seen, heard of, or watched this year. The 6-2, 230-pound leading tackler came up with 117 stops with 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, making 35 tackles over a late three-game stretch – he was fantastic against Georgia Tech.

NIU has a bad, bad habit of giving the ball away. It’s been able to get away with it more often than not, but it’ll struggle if it turns the ball over two times or more. The Huskies were on the negative side of the turnover margin six times over the last nine games of the season, but they’re 3-0 when on the plus side. Duke is 0-4 when it loses the turnover battle – it won’t do that.

Here’s Why Northern Illinois Will Win The Quick Lane Bowl

The NIU defense is amazing on third downs. The Huskies made up for a whole slew of problems by getting off the field on the money plays. The D – which led the nation in tackles for loss and was second in sacks – allowed teams to convert just 28% of the time on third downs, with offenses converting 35% of the time or fewer in every game but three. Duke converts 41% of its third down tries.

America, meet Sutton Smith. This might be the best Group of Five player you haven’t seen, heard of, or watched this year. All he did was lead the nation with 14 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss, ripping into the backfield on a regular basis highlighted by the 5.5 stops behind the line against Western Michigan, and the five against Boston College. He’s only 6-0 and 225 pounds, but he’s ridiculously quick, and he’s relentless. And that’s a problem, because …

Duke’s offensive line gives up way, way, way too many plays in the backfield. It’s not great in pass protection, and it has a tough time against aggressive defensive fronts who sell out to get behind the line – uh oh.

The Blue Devils are 100th in the nation in tackles for loss allowed, which kills the offense way too often and forces the attack out of its comfort zone. There’s not much of a downfield passing game – Duke can’t face a slew of third-and-longs.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Quick Lane Bowl

Your 2017 Quick Lane Bowl might come down to Daniel Jones. If the Duke QB is good, NIU is in trouble. But when he’s off, he’s really off. The 6-5, 215-pound sophomore is mobile with a live arm, but he went through a painful midseason erratic stretch. He has to hist 60% of his throws and it would help if he got running early.

The Quick Lane – in its various forms – might not seem like that big a bowl game, but it’s been really, really good. The nine of the last ten were decided by a touchdown or less, and even the 2014 40-21 Rutgers win over North Carolina was sort of fun. Between the two teams, they’ve played 12 games decided by eight points or fewer.

Is Marcus Childers ready to have a breakout game to show that he’s the star to lead Northern Illinois for the next few years? The freshman quarterback appeared to have settled the position after years of injuries and issues, and he proved he could handle the work. Now he has to limit the mistakes. Since taking over, NIU is 6-2, and in those two losses he threw two interceptions in each. He gave up just one pick in the other six games.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Quick Lane Bowl?

Northern Illinois has the defense to keep this close throughout, and Duke has the coaching and the ACC talent to pull away when needed.

Yes, the Huskies have been great over the second half of the season, and yes, they pushed Boston College hard and beat Nebraska, but Duke will rise up with a strong defensive performance from the front seven, and it’ll limit the mistakes. The winner of the turnover battle will take this.

Duke will be a +1.

Final Score

Duke 24, Northern Illinois 20
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Duke -5.5, o/u: 47.5

ATS Confidence: 2
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 3
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Quick Lane Bowl Game History, Results

Dec. 26 2016 Boston College 36, Maryland 30
Dec. 28, 2015 Minnesota 21 Central Michigan 14
Dec. 26, 2014 Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21
Dec. 26, 2013 Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27
Dec. 26, 2012 Central Michigan 24 Western Kentucky 21
Dec. 27, 2011 Purdue 37 Western Michigan 32
Dec. 26, 2010 FIU 34 Toledo 32
Dec. 26, 2009 Marshall 21 Ohio 17
Dec. 26, 2008 FAU 24 Central Michigan 21
Dec. 26, 2007 Purdue 51 Central Michigan 48
Dec. 26, 2006 Central Michigan 31 Middle Tennessee 14
Dec. 26, 2005 Memphis 38 Akron 31
Dec. 27, 2004 Connecticut 39 Toledo 10
Dec. 26, 2003 Bowling Green 28 Northwestern 24
Dec. 26, 2002 Boston College 51 Toledo 25
Dec. 29, 2001 Toledo 23 Cincinnati 16
Dec. 27, 2000 Marshall 25 Cincinnati 14
Dec. 27, 1999 Marshall 21 BYU 3
Dec. 23, 1998 Marshall 48 Louisville 29
Dec. 26, 1997 Mississippi 34 Marshall 31

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