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2021 Cure Bowl: Northern Illinois vs Coastal Carolina — Three Players to Watch

Grayson McCall leads Coastal Carolina’s spread-option offense against a balanced NIU offensive attack.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 26 Cure Bowl - Liberty v Coastal Carolina Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our preview content for Friday’s Tailgreeter Cure Bowl continues as we take a look at three impact players who will determine whether Northern Illinois or Coastal Carolina will walk away with the victory in Orlando.

The Chanticleers are looking to avenge an overtime loss in last year’s Cure Bowl, while NIU will try to complete an improbable season that saw them enter the year projected to be one of the lesser teams in the MAC.

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 draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.


Grayson McCall

The engineer of Jamey Chadwell’s spread-option offense is undoubtedly redshirt sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall. In his two seasons as the Chants starter, McCall has racked up the honors, most notably being the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons.

The 6-3, 210-pounder has 61 total touchdowns to his name over the last two years and has done an excellent job protecting the football, only throwing six interceptions over the same span. McCall had an excellent game in last year’s contest, accounting for over 400 total yards and four touchdowns.

Rocky Lombardi

The former Michigan State Spartans’ signal-caller has made the most of his opportunity in DeKalb. After throwing for eight touchdowns and nine interceptions with MSU last season, Lombardi looks like a different player in an offense suited for his skillset, as he’s on the verge of breaking 3,000 total yards and has scored 21 times this year. He’ll be depended upon to use his arm and legs to give the Huskies a chance versus Coastal.

C.J. Brown

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 NIU at Georgia Tech
C.J. Brown has been excellent in his freshman year.
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NIU freshman safety C.J. Brown has been an excellent player for the Huskies in 2021. The former three-star recruit leads the team in tackles with 103 and has 3.5 tackles for loss on the year. He’ll be depended upon to account for McCall in the Chants spread-option offense — as well as be the last line of defense against a pair of dynamic Coastal Carolina wideouts, Jaivon Heiligh and Isaiah Likely.