College Bowl Season Kickoff: Pointsettia Bowl N. Illinois vs TCU

Team Page: Northern Illinois :: TCU

64% of Bets Placed on TCU -12.5 | Matchup | CFB Picks
TCU has proven to be among the nation's best at stopping the run, but the team has not faced a running back of Garrett Wolfe's caliber.

The 25th-ranked Horned Frogs look to continue their defensive dominance and close with an eighth straight win when they oppose Northern Illinois at the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 19 to open college football's postseason

Oddsmakers have made TCU -12.5 point spread favorites (College Football Odds) for todays game,

the over/under has been set at 47 total points (View CFB Sports Books).

TCU (10-2) gave up an average of 67.6 rushing yards this season to rank fourth in the country, but did so while facing only one running back - New Mexico's Rodney Ferguson - who ran for at least 1,000 yards. The Horned Frogs had the nation's ninth-ranked defense, allowing 249.5 total yards per game.

Now they hope to shut down the leading rusher in Division I-A in Wolfe, who totaled 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns on 289 carries this season.

Wolfe has rushed for 367 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games - easy wins over Central and Eastern Michigan - after failing to run for 100 yards in four straight games. The Huskies went 1-3 in that stretch, the longest he's gone without a 100-yard game.

The Mid-American Conference offensive player of the year has run for a school-record 5,136 yards and 52 touchdowns in his three-season career.

Wolfe looks to help Northern Illinois (7-5) improve upon its 4-24 record against ranked teams. The Huskies have not faced an AP Top 25 opponent since a 35-12 loss at No. 1 Ohio State to open the season.

``TCU is going to provide a great challenge for our team, but that's what you're looking for when you go to a bowl game,'' Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak said.

TCU looks for another strong finish to the season after closing last year with a 10-game win streak, including a 27-24 win over Iowa State in the Houston Bowl. In the Horned Frogs' current seven-game run, they have outscored opponents 244-79 while allowing an average of 203.0 yards.

``It comes down to how you finish in November and December, not August,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said. ``This year, we came back, got on a roll late, got some people healthy, and now we have a chance to win 11 ballgames with the bowl game.''

Another win for the Horned Frogs, who are 8-12-1 in bowl games, would give the program its second straight 11-victory season and fifth in school history.

Jeff Ballard looks to close his career with a 20-2 record as the Horned Frogs starting quarterback. He was outstanding as the regular season wound down, completing 57 of 73 passes for 746 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in the final three games. Ballard completed less than 55 percent of his throws with five TDs and five interceptions through the team's first nine games.

Ballard directs a TCU offense that ranks 17th in the nation with 404.5 yards per game, including 600-plus yards in back-to-back games before having 377 in a 38-14 win over Air Force in the regular-season finale.

Sophomore running back Aaron Brown has been the other key player to TCU's offense. Besides rushing for team highs of 749 yards and nine touchdowns, Brown is the team's second-leading receiver with 33 receptions for 447 yards.

The Horned Frogs are looking to win consecutive bowl appearances for the first time this decade. They beat Iowa State 27-24 in last year's Houston Bowl as Ballard went 21-of-33 for 275 yards and a touchdown.

Like TCU, Northern Illinois has a 3-4 bowl record. The Huskies did not make a bowl last year after losing 31-30 to Akron in the Mid-American Conference title game despite Wolfe's 270 rushing yards. Their most recent bowl appearance also came in California, beating Troy 34-21 at the 2004 Silicon Valley Bowl in San Jose.

``Bowl games are all good, but what really makes them great is to win,'' Novak said. ``The purpose of the trip is to go out there and try to win a football game.''

The Huskies put together their seventh straight winning season thanks greatly to an offense which ranks 24th in the nation with 388.5 yards per game.

While Wolfe does most of the damage, Northern Illinois often used two quarterbacks this season, but the team is down to one for this game.

Senior Phil Horvath received significantly more playing time this year, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 31-10 win over Central Michigan on Nov. 17. That leaves sophomore Dan Nicholson to make his second straight start, having thrown for 261 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in a 27-0 victory over Eastern Michigan to close the regular season.

by: Anthony White - - Email Us

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