NIU Football: Quick Lane Bowl Preview vs Duke Blue Devils



NIU football is quite familiar with the city of Detroit and Ford Field as the Huskies played in six consecutive MAC Championship games in the home of the Detroit Lions, from 2010-15, winning three of those.

This will be the fourth edition of the Quick Lane Bowl, which is owned, hosted and operated by the Lions. You know this game, in existence since 2002, by its previous names, the Pizza Bowl and the Motor City Bowl. Even after all this time, it still seems surreal that Detroit hosts a bowl game every year.

Not to mention the fact that the both the Final Four and the Super Bowl (twice!) have been there. It all reminds us of this classic gag from the 1977 film Kentucky Fried Movie (edited version, the raw version cannot be posted in 2017)

(Don’t worry, we have another video about Detroit, which is actually praising the city, to embed later)


Duke vs. Northern Illinois

Dec. 26, 2017 | 4:15 p.m. CST on ESPN

Happy Boxing Day!

Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Spread: NIU football -5, over/under 48

NIU Football Preview (8-4, 6-2 MAC): The Huskies will play in a postseason bowl for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons and for the 17th time in school history. Northern Illinois is  4-7 in bowl games since becoming a FBS program in 1969. Over the years, they have played in some very interesting bowl games, with a lot of colorful names.


NIU football Coach Rod Carey will be bowling for the fifth time as he made his head coaching debut in the 2013 Orange Bowl game versus Florida State, after Dave Doeren left to take the NC State job. Unfortunately, Carey has lost all four, the last two by a combined 77 points. The Huskies are -105 in point differential during bowl games in the Carey era.

Still, this is a very favorable matchup for them, and you got to love their chances in this one. Northern Illinois went on a roll behind freshman quarterback Marcus Childers, who was named the league’s Freshman of the Year. This NIU football team went through two other QBs before settling on Childers, beginning the year with Ryan Graham, who suffered an elbow injury and was then replaced by Anthony Santacaterina.

sutton smith

The man with the name that sounds like a hit song by Sublime led the Huskies to a huge upset win at Nebraska, but found himself benched after throwing three interceptions in a very narrow loss at San Diego State. Childers took over from there and never looked back, leading NIU to a 5-2 record. Santacaterina announced he was transferring out a couple weeks ago.

What really makes Northern Illinois football click though is the defense.

The Huskies rank in the Top 25 nationally in nine defensive categories, including rushing defense (11th) and total defense (18th).

NIU football leads the nation in tackles for loss and is second in team sacks, while DE Sutton Smith is a 2017 Consensus All-American.

sutton smith

Smith joins RB LeShon Johnson, a unanimous Consensus All-American at running back in 1993, as the only Huskies to receive the distinction in school history.

Sutton Smith  destroyed the 33-year-old NIU record for tackles for loss in a season to lead the country with 28.5, and broke the Huskies’ single season sack record with 14, also tops in the FBS. He needs 3.5 tackles for loss to tie the NCAA single season record of 32, set by Western Michigan’s Jason Babin in 2003.

Duke (6-6, 3-5 ACC) Preview:

quick lane bowl


Duke gets low and slaps the floor when they need a stop on defense…oh, wait that’s hoops. The Blue Devils started the season hot (4-0), faltered in the midst (0-6), but rallied at the end to win their last two over Georgia Tech and Wake Forest to become bowl eligible.

Their 41-17 week two victory over Northwestern seems like a real aberration right now. We said that back at the time, this game would prove to be a substantial outlier, not indicative of the Wildcats season. It proved to also not really fit into the narrative of Duke’s season either. QB Daniel Jones is dual threat, and one of three Blue Devils with at least 400 yards rushing on the season.

Duke spreads it around even more so in the passing game. Nine Blue Devils have double figure receptions on the season.

Remember, Detroit is a “land where golden chariots…are molded into dreams”

Prediction: NIU football 21, Duke 20

I think Boomer has got this one, and the bowl streak will end. Take the under!

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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