Bowling Green Falcons (7-5 SU, 4-7-1 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship Game
Date and Time: Friday, December 5, 2014, 7:00 pm EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
TV: ESPN2, DirecTV 209
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: B.Green +5.5/NIll. -5.5
Over/Under Total: TBD
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We had to wait 364 days and 12 regular season games to get this point, but in the end the 2014 Mid-American Conference Championship game will be a rematch of the 2013 title game, when the MAC-East winning Bowling Green Falcons and the MAC-West winning Northern Illinois Huskies meet again on Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit.
These two squared off in last years title game won by Bowling Green in a mild upset, 47-27, but that game is history even though the Huskies are sure not to forget. This years version of the Falcons and Huskies are completely different teams, and if recent game results are used as a measuring stick, both teams are going in different directions going into the title game too.
Northern Illinois is back in the MAC title game for the fifth straight year, having split their previous four attempts right down the middle 2-2, winning titles in 2011 and 2012. Most importantly, the Huskies appear to playing their best football of the season right now, clinching the MAC-West title last weekend with a solid, 31-21, victory over Western Michigan n the road to win the West division outright. For the Huskies, it appears the defense has turned the corner from their early season struggles as they forced six turnovers in the win over the Broncos last week and havent allowed more than 24 points to an opponent since the middle of October.
On the other hand, Bowling Green comes into the title game on a two-game losing streak, which includes an embarrassing look-ahead loss to Ball State last weekend, 41-21, in a game that closed with the Falcons as large 10-point favorites. The Falcons had a 14-point lead early in the first quarter against the Cardinals, but they flipped the switch and went into shutdown mode and allowed Ball State to score 20 straight to take the lead and then were outscored 17-3 in the second half en route to the loss in front of the home crowd Doyt L. Perry Stadium in Bowling Green.
With public perception believing that these two teams are going in opposite directions also, oddsmakers were forced to open the MAC Championship game with Northern Illinois as 5.5-point favorites in the neutral-site title game. As of press time, an over/under total has still not yet been put on this game.
Offensively this should be an excellent title game to watch, as both teams run contrasting schemes that usually put up Playstation-like numbers on the stat sheet and scoreboard.
The Falcons, who ended the year averaging 30.8 points per game and 440 yards per contest, run a spread-attack similar to the Oregon Ducks, trying to snap the ball every 18 seconds in order to confuse and discombobulate defenses into breaking their gaps and contain. They use two solid running backs in Travis Green (803 yards, 10 TD) and Fred Coppet (653, 6) to balance the run-pass attack, and although sophomore QB James Knapke has thrown for big yards (2,654) this season, he does have a hard time protecting the football at times with almost as many interceptions (10) as he has touchdowns (12) on the season. As mentioned, the Huskies defense has made major improvements over the course of the MAC portion of their schedule, so it could get interesting if they can force a few 3-and-outs early in the game to see if the Falcons struggle to play catch-up with their fastbreak scheme.
Northern Illinois also has a pretty high-powered offense on their sideline, led by dual-threat QB Drew Hare to the tune of 30.6 points per game and 433 yards of total offense a game. Although Hare leads the Huskies in rushing (790 yards, 7 TD) and throwing (1,879, 15), he does have a bevy of different styled running backs at his disposal to power the Huskies running game that ended 18th in FBS at 246 yards a contest. Northern has a power back in Cameron Stingily (779, 11) and a solid backup in Joel Bouagnon (516, 6) to share the load, plus a speed-back in Akeem Daniels (307, 2) that they like to use on the jet sweep and out in the slot in the passing game. One of the drawbacks to the Bowling Green 18-seconds per play offense is that the Falcons defenses has played a ton of snaps this season, and considering they give up huge yardage both in the pass (299 127th) and on the ground (197 98th), at least on paper the Huskies offense looks like they could have their way with whichever mode they choose to try and put the ball in the endzone.
Up until last years title-game upset by the Falcons (Northern Illinois closed as 3-point favorites), the head-to-head series between these two schools has been controlled by the Huskies of late. Northern had won three straight in the series dating back to 2004, and four of the last five going back to the 2002 season. However, the results for bettors holding tickets in their hands has been mixed, as both teams have trading covering the spread in every other game as the 3-3 ATS record indicates over that same six-game span.
As far as betting trends go, once a total for this game is released its actually the under that should get a good, hard look by bettors. The under is 7-0 in Bowling Green games following a double-digit loss by the Falcons. The under is also 5-0 in the Huskies last five overall and 7-1 in their eight MAC games this season.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: As bad as the Falcons looked sleepwalking through last weeks game against Ball State, I honestly think these teams matchup fairly even for this MAC title game. Bowling Greens offense indoors on the carpet inside Ford Field could give Northern Illinois some problems. With almost 70 percent of the early public money coming in on the Huskies, Im not sure the spread is going to stay at 5.5-points all the way up until kickoff. Id wait until later in the week to see if the number climbs closer to a touchdown, then snatch the underdog Falcons at its highest point. Im taking Bowling Green plus the points for this game.