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BSU & NIU By the Numbers

By the Numbers200On Wednesday, the Cards travel to Dekalb for what amounts to a one-game playoff for the MAC West. A victory means the Cards are heading to Detroit for the MAC Championship and a loss means the Cards will need help from Toledo the following week to even make it to a tiebreak situation. Suffice to say, it’s big. Most fans of both programs had this game circled since the summer when the schedules were released as their ” Must Win” of the 2013 season. Now, it’s here.

Each team has had remarkable success this season, with NIU being undefeated at 9-0 and ranked 15th in the latest BCS standings. The Huskies are realistic BCS busters (as they were last season) but of course that all goes away with a loss on Wednesday. The similarities between the programs are numerous, but let’s see how the teams stack up on paper in this 2013 edition of the Battle for the Bronze Stalk!

BSU vs. NIU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
Scoring Offense 14th (39.9)
7th (44.2)
Rushing Offense 81st (152.7) 4th (312.7)
Passing Offense 16th (323.0) 66th (232.8)
Total Offense 24th (475.7) 5th (545.4)
Scoring Defense 48th (23.6) 53rd (25.0)
Rushing Defense 98th (197.5) 42nd (147.1)
Passing Defense 46th (222.4) 109th (271.6)
Total Defense 85th (419.9) 84th (418.7)
Sacks 54th (19.0) 16th (26.0)
Sacks Allowed 33rd (13.0) 2nd (5.0)
Turnover Margin 8th (+10) 10th (+9)
3rd Down Conv. % 44th (43.8%) 54th (41.8%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 65th (39.5%) 32nd (35.3%)
Red Zone Conv. % 27th (88.2%) 38th (86.8%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 17th (72.4%) 115th (91.7%)
Punting 62nd (41.3) 69th (41.0)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 6th (31.4) 99th (61.0)

I thought for sure BSU would trail this week’s by the numbers, but they in fact do not, with a 9-8 lead in the stat categories above. That’s as close as you can get though. The big things to note is this week is a battle of strength versus weakness in that NIU’s fantastic rushing offense is going against a not so great rush defense for the Cardinals. Same could be said for BSU’s passing attack versus NIU’s passing defense. NIU does have a marked advantage in sacks, so the offensive line for BSU and protecting Keith Wenning will be the difference maker. Both teams generate a tremendous amount of turnovers, and the game could very well hinge on one of those. The two most interesting stats for me are BSU advantages in the areas of opponent red zone scoring percentages and penalties. It is intangibles like those that make the difference for two evenly matched teams. If NIU is held to field goals rather than touchdowns in the red zone and who commits their usual 60 yards of penalties, it becomes much more likely for a BSU upset. Vegas sees NIU as a 6 point favorite, with a 69 point over/under, and it’s hard for me to take issue with either of those numbers.

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