Toledo Rockets (6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (7-2
SU, 6-2-1 ATS), Week 11 NCAA Football, 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday,
November 9, 2010, Husky Stadium, Dekalb, Ill., TV: ESPN2
by Badger of Predictem.com
The West Division of the Mid-American Conference will be up for grabs Tuesday night in front of a nation-wide audience on ESPN2 when the Toledo Rockets travel to Dekalb, Illinois, to face the Northern Illinois Huskies in Huskie Stadium.
Both teams enter the showdown at 5-0 in MAC play, so the winner will put a stranglehold on the division with only two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Toledo enters the game riding a three-game win streak, including a 42-7 stomp over Eastern Michigan in their last action (Oct. 30th), but they will face steep odds literally and figuratively since Northern Illinois has rattled off six straight wins and has quietly become one of the hottest teams in the country.
Plus the Huskies, who continued their streak with a 28-21 victory on the road at Western Michigan their last time out (also on the 30th), must play their final two conference games on the road at Ball State and Eastern Michigan, so theyíll be hyped up to assume the role of the driverís seat in front of the home crowd in DeKalb on Tuesday.
Those steep odds I mentioned earlier that the Rockets face, well most sportsbooks opened the game with Northern Illinois as 11.5-point favorites. The point spread is still less than 24 hours old, so it hasnít had enough time to move in either direction yet.
As of press time the over/under total and the moneyline bets have yet to be released.
This game will all hinge on the ability of Toledo to stop the power running attack of Northern Illinois on offense.
Running back Chad Spann has already gone over 1,000 yards this season (111 ypg), and when combined with quarterback Chandler Harnish the Huskies run for over 243 yards per game, a total that leads the MAC and is 11th in the country.
What separates the Huskies this season is Harnishís ability to pass the ball of play-action, throwing for over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns to help the Huskies stand at the front of the MAC in scoring offense at 30.7 points per game. Itís the Huskies ability to pass when needed that has allowed them to lead the MAC in 3rd-down efficiency, converting at an astounding 51.6 percent clip.
The Toledo defense does offer up a little bit of a challenge for the powerful Northern Illinois attack, since they do lead the MAC in turnover margin (+9) and also lead the MAC in defensive 3rd-down efficiency at 35.8 percent. But itís going to take a total team effort because Northern Illinois is also the least penalized team in the MAC and is second to the Rockets in turnover margin (+7), so they havenít been beating themselves this season.
Another huge question for the Rockets in this game is how well will freshman quarterback Terrance Owens play in just his third game and first start since starter Austin Dantin hurt his shoulder last week against Eastern Michigan.
Owens was incredibly effective in relief of Dantin (10-of-15, 234 yards, 4 TD) against the weak Eagle defense, but Northern Illinois also features the MACís 2nd-ranked scoring defense (only 17.5 ppg - 16th in NCAA), so the test will certainly be much tougher. I expect the Huskies to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the young Owens, stacking the box to take away Adonis Thomas and the rest of the Rocket running game in order to make Owens beat them with his arm and his decision making.
As if the Huskies need any extra motivation for Tuesdayís huge MAC clash, theyíll also have the angle of redemption to feed on to give them an added edge. Toledo has owned the series versus the Huskies over the years, going 8-2 SU since 2000 and also 9-2-1 ATS in their last 12 meetings on the gridiron.
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Northern Illinois did win the last time they played in Huskie Stadium in 2008, covering as 8-point favorites with a 38-7 victory, but that is the exception to the rule. The Rockets have won and covered in the previous four games in Dekalb.
The underdog is also 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings, so the Rockets certainly have most of the betting trends pointing in their favor.
The under also has some strong trends working for it. The under is 2-1-1 in the last four games in Dekalb in the series, but itís also 15-6-1 in the Huskies last 22 home games at Huskie Stadium and 6-2-1 in the Huskies last nine games following a bye.
Badgerís Pick to Cover the Spread: With a freshman getting his first start against a tough Huskies defense, on the road, in the MACís biggest game of the year so far Ö I just donít see the Rockets having enough offense to stay in this game against those odds. Iím on the Huskies here to bring the title home. Take Northern Illinois minus the 11.5 points.
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