Ball State Cardinals (4-6 SU, 5-5 ATS) vs. Toledo Rockets (8-2 SU, 7-3 ATS)
College Football Week 12
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 7:00 PM EST
Where: Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio
TV: ESPN2, DirecTV 209
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BALL +20.5/TOL -20.5
Over/Under Total: 65
The Toledo Rockets are hoping to set up a winner-take-all showdown with Western Michigan for the Mid-American Conference West division title, but first they have to take care of business by beating the visiting Ball State Cardinals inside the Glass Bowl on Wednesday night MACtion on ESPN2.
The Rockets got one step closer to their date with the undefeated and 14th-ranked Broncos by beating their longtime MAC nemesis Northern Illinois last week in the Chi-town Showdown on last week’s Wednesday night MACtion, 31-24. It was a 60-minute slugfest with the Huskies, but the Rockets prevailed when Kareem Hunt crashed in from 1-yard out with just 1:15 left on the clock to give them Rockets their first win over the Huskies in the last six years.
Ball State has struggled in MAC play, losing three straight and five of their six conference games including a heartbreaker to Eastern Michigan last week, 48-41. The Cardinals jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but then gave it all back to Eastern Michigan in the middle two quarters and actually trailed for most of the fourth quarter. Ball State scored what looked to be the winning touchdown on a Riley Neal 1-yard QB sneak with just 1:35 left on the clock, but the Eagles went 86 yards in eight plays in just over a minute to stun the Cardinals and the home crowd for the come-from-behind victory.
While it would be easy for the Rockets to overlook the downtrodden Cardinals in a perfect look-ahead spot, oddsmakers aren’t buying it as they staked Toledo as rather large 20.5-point favorites for their home game on Wednesday. There are only a few sportsbooks currently listing an over/under total for the MACtion hump-day game, but the few that have a number on it are listing the total at 65.5.
This is the third week in a row the Rockets have played in a mid-week MACtion game, so honestly there’s not much left to say about their offensive prowess. Hunt (5.2 ypc, 7 TD), QB Logan Woodside (3,328 yds., 37 TD) and WR Cody Thompson (1,021, 9 TD) are all among the conference leaders at their positions, and the Rockets 539.7 yards per game is 5th in the country. The Ball State defense gave up 468 yards passing and three touchdowns to Eastern Michigan QB Brogan Roback last week, so at least on paper it looks like Woodside and the Rockets will feast on the Cardinals lack of defense on Wednesday.
The Toledo defense will have to find a way to stop Ball State sophomore running back James Gilbert, whose 12 TDs and 5.4 yards per carry is the obvious focal point of the Cardinals offense. However, Gilbert has been nursing a leg injury and left the Eastern Michigan game after just 12 carries and its unclear if he will be ready to go. The Rockets run defense does allow 161 yards per game (59th in FBS), so if the Cardinals can keep the chains moving and keep the Rockets offense off the field they might be able to stay within the point spread deep into the fourth quarter.
Historically, Ball State has done a good job of hanging with the Rockets. Toledo has won two in a row over the Cardinals, but both schools are 5-5 SU in the past 10 meetings going back to the 2006 season. But what most bettors will like to know is that Ball State is actually 7-3 ATS in those same 10 meetings, and the under is 4-0 in the last four meetings and 7-3 in the last 10 including 4-1 in the last five games played inside the Glass Bowl in Toledo.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: As much as they talk about not looking ahead to a Nov. 25th showdown with Western Michigan, its only natural to let off the gas pedal when the struggling Cardinals come to town on Wednesday. Plus, even though Ball State is only 1-5 in the MAC, only a 32-point loss to Western Michigan was their only blowout loss. All of their other losses were by 10 points of less. While the possible lack of Gilbert in the Cardinals lineup does worry me, I still think Ball State finds a way to forget last week’s terrible loss in the final minute and keep this game with the Rockets within the point spread. I’m picking Ball State and taking the +20.5 points with the hopes of a face-saving late backdoor cover.
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