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Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Bowling Green Falcons Point Spread - Pick

Northern Illinois Huskies (6-3 SU, 4-5 ATS) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (4-5 SU, 5-4 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Week 11 NCAA Football, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, Ohio, TV: ESPN2
by Badger of

Point Spread: NIU -6/BGU +6
Over/Under Total: OFF

The Northern Illinois Huskies took a huge step toward a West Division title in the Mid-American Conference last Tuesday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2, so they’ll try and keep the positive momentum going in another road game in the MAC when they take on the Bowling Green Falcons in Doyt L. Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio, this Tuesday night on ESPN2.

The Huskies were involved in the MAC game last week where defense was considered a four-letter word, outlasting the Toledo Rockets in a shootout, 63-60. Northern Illinois returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, had 532 of the 1,121 total yards in the game and averaged over eight yards a play (8.58) in the “upset” win over Toledo on the road.

The win moved the Huskies into a tie with Toledo for first place atop the MAC West standings at 4-1, but it gave them the important tie-breaker advantage over the Rockets should both teams run the table the rest of the season with three games remaining.

This week’s game at Bowling Green is just as important for the Huskies title drive though, since they finish the season with their remaining two games at home against Ball State and Eastern Michigan to give them an advantage going forward if they can close the deal against the Falcons.

On paper it doesn’t appear that Bowling Green will present too much of a challenge for the Huskies, since they have lost four of their last five games and are stuck in the pack of MAC East standings with a 2-3 record. But the Falcons are coming off of their bye week and should be prepared for the tussle, and the Falcons did spring a huge upset win over Temple in their last home game in Perry Stadium (13-10 back on Oct. 22nd), so stranger things have happened.

Plus, it’s the MAC, so you can throw all of the conventional wisdom out the window when teams in this topsy-turvy conference get together on national television.

One week after finding themselves as near double-digit underdogs on the road at Toledo, this week Northern Illinois will be the hunted as oddsmakers opened the Tuesday night affair with the Huskies as a full touchdown 7-point favorite on the road at Bowling Green. Interestingly enough though, the early steam from the sharps is coming in on the Falcons as home dogs in this game, since the point spread is already down to 6-points at a large majority of the sportsbooks in Las Vegas and offshore.

As of press time an over/under total has yet to be released.

When a total is released you can expect it to be a big number though, since it is the MAC and the perception of the conference’s football teams nationally is that offense wins games and defense is an afterthought, legit or not. The way these two teams have played thus far fits that mold to perfection too.

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish is probably the most dynamic player in the MAC this season. Last week Harnish ran the Huskies speed-option for 133 yards on 16 carries, then when Toledo started cheating on the run he picked apart the secondary with 17-of-26 passing for 265 yards and six touchdowns.

For the season the Huskies are ranked in the top-10 nationally with 246.7 yards a game on the ground (9th), and their 41.2 points per game on offense is the 10th best mark in the NCAA after 10 weeks of play.

Bowling Green also runs a spread attack on offense that is no slouch (397.6 ypg – 58th), but they are more of a pass first attack (268.4 ypg – 29th) that relies on the arm of quarterback Matt Schilz to move the team down the field. Schilz has over 2,000 yards passing already this season (2,301), but it’s his accuracy (60.4 com. %) and his decision making (19 TD, but 10 INT) that has caused head coach Dave Clawson and his offensive staff headaches at times this season.

Schilz has two terrific weapons on the outside in Kamar Jorden (7 TD) and Eugene Cooper (6 TD), but it’s not like those two are the only two players the Huskies can key on since the Falcons have seven different players that average over 12 yards a catch this season. Bowling Green does have some issues in the red zone once space is limited though, as the spread attack isn’t as efficient in tight and the Falcons are only scoring 26 points a game (72nd).

You can expect both offenses to light it up Tuesday because, like many teams in the MAC, neither one of these two appear to give a crap about stopping teams from scoring.

Northern Illinois’ Achilles heel is a defense that gives up 450 yards a game (103rd), 247 of it in the air (91st), and over 35 points per game (109th) every time they take the field.

Bowling Green’s defense isn’t that much better, giving up nearly 400 yards a game (384.1 ypg – 63rd), with a dangerously large chunk of it coming on the ground in the running game (190.8 ypg – 90th).

However you slice it, defense is something these two just fail to play very well. It’s almost like they prefer to just let teams score in order to give the ball back to their own offense like a fastbreak style team in hoops.

The last time these two schools met on the gridiron was back in 2008, a narrow 16-13 victory for the Huskies at home in DeKalb. The last time they played at Bowling Green was in 2003, in what turned into a 34-18 win for the Falcons. All told the series is even through the years 4-4 SU, with the Falcons going 2-1 SU at home in Perry Stadium over the years.

The Falcons have been more reliable for gamblers along the way though, as they hold an 5-3 ATS record over the Huskies since 1985 including a 2-1 ATS mark at home in the head-to-head series.

As far as betting trends go it appears that you’ll have to pick which side of the trends you think this game is going to fall on, since an argument can be made both ways for both teams.

Northern Illinois has been strong in the MAC lately, going 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 conference games and 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 as a favorite. But they are just 1-4 ATS as a road favorite, and that mark slips to 0-4-1 ATS when they are considered a big favorite (of 3.5 to 10 points).

Bowling Green is 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games as a home underdog, but just 10-22 ATS in their last 32 home games overall and just 3-9 ATS following a bye week the past few seasons.

Keep an eye on the total once it’s released because the trends point toward a play on the under in this matchup. The under is 12-4 in the Huskies last 16 games following a game where they scored 40 points or more. The under is also 5-0 in the Falcons last five games as a home dog, and 7-3 in their last 10 MAC games overall.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I haven’t been able to figure out the MAC at all this season, but with that said I do think the Huskies will pull this one out. I doubt they will put on the offensive display they did last week, but their offense is simply better than the Falcons defense is at this point. It might be a late backdoor cover for the Huskies, but I think it will be a cover. I’m betting Northern Illinois minus the points.

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