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Cure Bowl: Coastal Carolina at Northern Illinois

Eyeing the Cure

Coastal Carolina and Northern Illinois will be eyeing up the Cure Bowl from across the field when they collide on day one of college football bowl action. BetUS sportsbook odds are giving it to Coastal Carolina, but Northern Illinois is flush off a triumph in the MAC conference title game and will fancy its chances, too. So who will win the Cure Bowl and cap the 2021 season on a high note?

Game: Visiting Coastal Carolina (10-2, 6-2 Sun Belt) at Northern Illinois (9-4, 7-2 MAC)

CJ Brown celebrates Cure Bowl Picks
Mike Mulholland/Getty Images/AFP

Location: Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL

Day/Time: Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, 6 p.m. ET

Television: ESPN2

Betting Lines

Team Point Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers -10½ -110 -400 63½ -110o
Northern Illinois Huskies +10½ -110 +320 63½ -110u

Chanticleers Seek to Crack Cure

Coastal Carolina returns to Cure Bowl action for the second year running after finishing the season 10-2 overall and 6-2 in Sun Belt action, which yielded a third-place finish. The Chanticleers came up short in 2020, losing to Big South rival Liberty 37-34 in overtime after having a field goal blocked. It was a bitter pill to swallow in an otherwise standout bowl debut.

Coastal is delighted to be returning to the Cure Bowl, the scene of the program’s first bowl appearance according to coach Jamey Chadwell. Due to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions in 2020, the Chanticleers didn’t get the full experience. But Chadwell is thrilled that his players will this time around.

Coastal is the understandable favorite according to the betting odds, underscored by a track record over the last couple of years. The Chanticleers are a better team (on paper) from a better conference to put it simply. They have a high-powered offense that means business, averaging 492.3 yards per game and 7.6 yards per play. The defense isn’t too shabby with 326.5 yards per game and 5.3 yards per play allowed.

Injury Report

Tight end Xavier Gravette has an undisclosed injury and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be available.

Three Players to Watch

Quarterback Grayson Mcall emerges as one of the most efficient passers. He missed a few games due to a shoulder injury but returned in time to get match fit. In his first game back, he lit up with 319 yards and five scores in a 35-21 win over Texas State. On the season, he has amassed 2,558 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Wide receiver Jaivon Heileigh leads the team with 59 receptions for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns. Tight end Isaiah Likely has been stellar with 52 catches, 816 yards and 10 touchdowns. While linebacker Silas Kelly looms large on the defensive side of the ball and leads the team with 96 tackles.

From Zero To Hero

After a pointless and winless 2020 campaign, Northern Illinois performed a remarkable and historic turnaround to finish top of the MAC table and win its program’s sixth Mid-American Conference title, beating Kent State 41-23 in the process.

Michigan State-transfer Rocky Lombardi led the Huskies to a feat no one could have predicted in head coach Thomas Hammock’s third year. The college football odds certainly weren’t cornered with the Huskies at the start of the season.

Northern Illinois finished the season with a 9-4 record and a 7-2 record in conference play. Along the way, the Huskies beat five bowl-eligible teams and their only defeats were to bowl-eligible teams. The offense averages 31.5 points per game and ranks 43rd in the country, but their rushing attack is the fifth-best with 234.2 yards per game.

Injury Report

Wide receiver Tyrice Richie has a foot injury that could keep him out of the Cure Bowl this Friday. No final decision has been made yet.

Three Players to Watch

Lombardi passed for 2,416 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He can be inconsistent, which is something to watch. That said Lombardi has over 400 yards rushing, along with running backs Jay Ducker, Harrison Waylee, Clint Ratkovich, and Antario Brown.

Wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph leads the team with 49 receptions, 877 yards, and seven touchdowns. While safety C.J. Brown scored on a 26-yard interception return late in the third quarter against Kent State to give Northern Illinois the 24-3 lead. It was Brown’s lone interception but he’s an impact player on the ground and with 104 tackles to his credit, he can do some damage.

Betting on the Game

Northern Illinois is the feel-good story of the 2021 season, a team that defied the odds and all preconceived notions to emerge from obscurity and reach the absolute pinnacle of college football within its conference. Insofar as their Cinderella run extending to bowl success too, the markets aren’t prepared to even consider it as a realistic possibility. That’s evinced by the odds which opened with Coastal Carolina as the hefty favorite in both moneyline and point spread betting markets.

The Huskies are familiar with the underdog terrain after traversing through it for the better part of the season. Northern Illinois is 5-4 straight up (SU) and 5-3-1 against the spread (ATS) as an underdog, a record that includes the upset over Kent State as the 3 ½-point underdog on neutral ground.

The Huskies are dangerous floaters. To dismiss them entirely would be foolish. Thus, there is some value in betting on the Huskies to cover as the 10½-point underdogs in this game for college football picks. They’re certainly not going to roll over and give it to the Chanticleers without a fight.

To back the outright upset on the moneyline at +320 is tempting too (a $bet will yield $320). However, this isn’t a bet for the fainthearted. Inasmuch as the Huskies could win, the Chanticleers should win; well, that is, according to widespread opinion. Coastal is being touted as statistically better with clear advantages over the Huskies in most categories. If only games were played on paper, right? It would make the betting easy.

The total for this game is currently projected at 63½ points. Looking at the offensive prowess of both teams there’s a good chance this game will turn into a high-scoring affair that will go OVER the game total. QB Mcall and the Chanticleers can put up the points in a hurry against a modest Huskies defense, while QB Lombardi and the Huskies’ run game can do some damage too.

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