Toledo Rockets (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (3-6 SU, 4-5 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 7:00 PM EST
Where: Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago, Ill.
TV: ESPN2, DirecTV 209
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TOL -7/NIU +7
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Toledo Rockets and Northern Illinois Huskies have battled in recent seasons for bragging rights in the Mid-American Conference East division, but this Wednesday the two schools will renew their rivalry in what is being billed as the “Chi-Town Showdown” when they meet inside Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago in a neutral-site MACtion game on ESPN2.
Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox, will be hosting its first ever college football game in the 25-year history of the venue. With nearly 120,000 alumni living in the Chicagoland area, Northern Illinois moved its home game against Toledo to the neutral site in order to draw fans and attention to the Huskies football program.
Huskie fans should be out in force on Wednesday night, especially since Northern Illinois ran their MAC conference record to 3-2 with a, 45-20, victory over Bowling Green last Tuesday night. Running back Joel Bouagnon scored five touchdowns in the victory over the Falcons, good enough to be named MAC offensive player of the week for his efforts.
But Bouagnon and the Huskies will face a stiff test on Wednesday when the Rockets come to Chicago, especially since Toledo is 4-1 in the MAC East and coming off of a, 48-17, win over Akron in last week’s MACtion. The Rockets avenged an upset at the hands of Ohio the week before in the win over Akron, and with a win over the Huskies in the Chi-town Showdown will set themselves up for a potential MAC East “showdown” with the 14th-ranked Western Michigan Broncos for the East title the day after Thanksgiving. The Broncos have already beaten the Huskies, so the Rockets will need to take care of business on Wednesday if they have any hopes of knocking the Broncos off their perch atop the MAC East standings.
Oddsmakers set the opening point spread for this neutral-site game with Toledo as 6.5-point favorites. Already there are several sportsbooks that have adjusted the betting line up to Toledo minus a full touchdown at -7, but there are still enough books still sitting with the number at 6.5. As of press time, there has yet to be an over/under total released.
Like most of these MACtion games featuring the teams in the MAC Conference, offense will be featured and is never the problem. Toledo is the 2nd-ranked scoring offense in the conference at 40.3 points per game, and the Huskies come in a distant third at 31.1 points per contest.
But not to beat a repetitive drum on this, but its really which team is willing to put forth a strong defensive effort, a full 60-minute effort aimed a stopping the opponent from scoring and not just letting them score and get the offense back on the field that will determine the winner of this contest. Despite being ranked pretty low in the conference (and nationally) in total defense, Northern Illinois’ defensive unit has picked up its game of late, causing turnovers including eight interceptions in their last three games. The Huskies pass defense will certainly be tested on Wednesday by Toledo QB Logan Woodside, who is among the leaders in FBS with 34 TD throws and only five interceptions in 2016.
As mentioned in the opening, these two teams have clashed and created a heated rivalry amongst the schools over the years. And that rivalry has been OWNED by the Huskies of late, with Northern Illinois winning six straight meetings with the Rockets going back to 2010. But while the Huskies have crushed Toledo’s hopes of late, its actually the Rockets that hold a large 29-14 lifetime record against Northern Illinois in the all-time series.
Toledo was coincidentally a 7-point favorite in last year’s game in Toledo, a game Northern Illinois won, 32-27. Toledo has covered as the “road” team in their last two head-to-heads with Northern, but both of those games closed with the Rockets as underdogs. In fact, the underdog is a solid 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these two schools.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Normally a neutral site game would favor the “road” team and that helps to explain the reason why Toledo opened as 6.5-point favorites and has gone up to minus -7 at many other books. But it’s also not a secret that Northern Illinois has been the thorn in the Rockets side now for six straight years … every single senior on Toledo’s roster have never tasted victory over the Huskies in their college careers. This year the Rockets may just get that first taste of sweet victory over the Huskies, but it won’t come in the form of a blowout or a 7-point victory. I think the Huskies keep it close and cover the point spread, a spread that I think is too big of a number in my opinion for either of these teams in this rivalry. I’m taking Northern Illinois plus the 7 points.
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