A brief primer on Saturday's International Bowl battle between South Florida (7-5) and Northern Illinois (7-5):
Northern Illinois will be playing in its second consecutive bowl game under second-year head coach Jerry Kill. The Huskies have improved greatly under Kill’s leadership and a win over South Florida would certainly be one of the high points in the program’s history.
Northern Illinois was rolling through the middle of the season, but really wrestled with injuries, especially down the stretch, and comes into the International Bowl with a two-game losing streak.
WHO TO WATCH: Chad Spann, RB, NIU
Spann will be the Huskies primary source of rushing with Me’co Brown out for the game. Spann was banged up in late November, but has had enough time to heal so that he should be effective. Spann leads the Huskies with 159 carries for 945 yards and 19 touchdowns.
WHAT TO WATCH: NIU has been tough against the AQs
Northern Illinois was one of the teams to watch in the Mid-American Conference early in the season because of the way they played against opponents from the automatic qualifying schools. The Huskies lost 28-20 against Wisconsin in the season opener and defeated Purdue 28-21, NIU’s first victory against a Big Ten school since 1988.
WHY TO WATCH: Snap the bowl streak
The Mid-American Conference has lost 14 consecutive bowl games dating back to 2006. Northern Illinois is part of that statistic, losing to Louisiana Tech last season and hasn’t won a bowl game since 2004.
PREDICTION: Northern Illinois has gotten up for games against teams from the automatic qualifying conferences, but the Huskies have been dealing with injuries. If they’re not able to run the ball, it will be tough to keep the South Florida defense honest. NIU will put up a good fight, but USF will be too much. South Florida 32, NIU 18.