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2021 Cure Bowl: Northern Illinois vs Coastal Carolina — Three Questions

NIU and Coastal Carolina square off in the 7th annual Cure Bowl from Orlando.

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 17 Cure Bowl - UCF v Arkansas State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another college football regular season has come and gone, leaving us with memories of what was and what could have been for various programs across the nation.

For a lucky 88 teams, the year will be capped off with at least one more contest as bowl season is upon us. The seventh edition of the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl will take place on December 17, featuring Northern Illinois and Coastal Carolina.

NIU surprised many with their nine-win 2021 campaign and is seeking their first 10-win season since 2014. Coastal Carolina makes their return to the Cure Bowl, having lost a thrilling contest in this game last year to Liberty.

According to DraftKings, Coastal Carolina are a 9.5-point favorite with the over/under set at 63.5 points.*

*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Can Northern Illinois cap off an improbable year?

Picked to finish last in the MAC West division by the league’s head coaches, Thomas Hammock’s return to his alma mater paid incredible dividends in his third season. The Huskies won nine games this year, in large part due to an offense guided by former Michigan State signal-caller Rocky Lombardi and a steady rushing attack.

NIU finished second in the conference with 3,045 yards and 33 touchdowns on the season, led by redshirt freshman Jeyvon Drucker, who rushed for 1,038 yards. The Huskies have a total of five players who have rushed for over 400 yards on the season, including Lombardi.

How motivated will Coastal Carolina be?

The Chanticleers entered the 2021 season with astronomical expectations following a 2020 campaign that saw Jamey Chadwell’s club go win 11 games, but suffered an overtime loss to Liberty in last season’s edition of the Cure Bowl.

The Chants were ranked as high as number nine in 2020 and this season opened the year at number 22, before suffering their first loss of the year in week six against App State. While a shot at another 11-win season is certainly motivating enough, will there be a bit of a hangover for a group that played in this game last year — and entered this season with hopes of a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Which offense will prevail?

NIU’s rushing attack will serve as their top offensive weapon and potentially its best defense against a Coastal Carolina offense that ranks sixth among FBS teams, averaging 40.4 points per contest.

Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, having thrown for 49 touchdowns and just six interceptions over the previous two seasons.

Look for the Huskies to keep Coastal’s high-powered offense on the sidelines by trying to sustain long scoring drives when they have their opportunities.