In what is expected to be a frigid mid-week matchup, one team is looking to raise its bowl game stock, while the other is looking to snap a conference-worst six game losing streak.

Ball State (2-7, 0-5 MAC) travels to Northern Illinois (6-3, 4-1 MAC) for a 7 p.m. Thursday for the battle of the Bronze Stalk trophy - a rivalry trophy Northern Illinois has one the past eight years.

Robby General, the Daily News football reporter, is covering the game and offered up some insight on the key positional matchups:

Ball State run vs. Northern Illinois defense

There's no doubt that the bread and butter of Ball State's offense is its running game. This season, Ball State has attempted 361 rushing plays compared to 317 in the air. While head coach Mike Neu said he wanted to establish the run, Northern Illinois has done a pretty good job stopping it.

The Huskies lead the Mid-American Conference in run defense this season, limiting opponents to 112.8 yards per game and just seven scores. While the freshman Caleb Huntley and sophomore will continue to take the load with junior James Gilbert ruled out for the season, the young duo will have a tough time against Northern Illinois' stingy defense.

Edge: Northern Illinois

Ball State secondary vs. Northern Illinois passing

While Ball State played its previous two opponents close in the first quarter of each game, the crutch of its defense continues to be the secondary. Big plays have haunted the Cardinals this season, but Northern Illinois is much like Ball State in the fact that it likes to run the ball more than pass it.

This season, freshman quarterback Marcus Childers has averaged 138 yards per game passing for nine touchdowns. While its a welcoming sign to see a young quarterback on offense, Ball State struggles against the pass, giving up the fifth most yards in the MAC with 232 a game. 

Edge: Northern Illinois

Ball State receivers vs. Northern Illinois secondary

One of the few positives for Ball State these past few weeks has been the emergence of long receptions from a variety of receivers. With the arrival of freshman Khalil Newton last week and the proven success from other guys like Justin Hall and Riley Miller, Ball State has been having success getting the ball downfield through the air.

While Northern Illinois has only given up eight passing touchdowns all season, it gives up nearly 220 passing yards against per game. Ball State's receivers are going to have to get open early and often if they want to have a chance in this game.

Slight edge: Ball State

Ball State offensive line vs. Northern Illinois front seven

While injuries have been affecting the whole team, its particularly true when you look at Ball State's offensive line. Redshirt senior Vinnie Palazeti and redshirt junior Kadin Booker are the only upperclassmen at the tackle spots, but Ball State's offensive line is mainly underclassmen replacing injured players.

This isn't a welcoming sign for a Northern Illinois team that leads the conference in sacks (26) and sack yards (158). That additional pressure also contributes to the Huskies allowing opponents to only 16 first downs per game - also best in the MAC.

Edge: Northern Illinois

Final Prediction

Ball State, while it showed some life through the air in its loss to Eastern Michigan last week, is a heavy underdog in this one.

Northern Illinois has only lost one conference game all season, and that was by 10 to Toledo (8-1, 5-0 MAC), the only MAC team to receive votes in the AP Top 25 Poll. 

Edge: Northern Illinois

Contact Robby General with comments at or on Twitter at @rgeneraljr.