MAC Championship Pick: Ball State vs. Buffalo

by | Dec 14, 2020 | cfb

Ball State Cardinals (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bulls (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS)

When: Friday, December 18, 7 p.m.

Where: Ford Field, Detroit

TV: ESPN

Point Spread: BSU +11.5/BUF -11.5 (MyBookie - Deposit $100 get $100 FREE! Must use bonus code PREDICT100)

Total: O/U 67

Outlook

After a slow start to the season, Ball State is playing in the MAC championship game for the first time in 12 seasons. The Cardinals looked like they were all offense early in the season, but they’ve really stepped it up on defense over the past month, holding their past four opponents to 27 points or less. Against Western Michigan, the Cardinals pulled off their biggest comeback yet, overcoming a 14-point deficit to win the game and win the West Division for just the second time in their program’s history.

And just like 12 years ago, it’s the Buffalo Bulls who stand in Ball State’s path. Unlike last time, Buffalo is the unquestioned favorite, as the Bulls have run over the Eastern Division on their way to a perfect record. Buffalo might have been in the mix for an NY6 bowl if it had been able to play a full season, as the Bulls have appeared to be on another level compared to the rest of the MAC. With Jaret Patterson leading the way, Buffalo seems to be the class of the league. But the same was true two years ago when Buffalo arrived for the MAC title game, and the Bulls ended up losing to Northern Illinois. Of course, 12 years ago, the roles were reversed, as Ball State came in as the favorite and watched Buffalo leave with the league title. Can the Cardinals turn the tables?

How the Public is Betting the Ball State/Buffalo Game

The game hasn’t been on the board long enough yet for the public to have much of a say in this one.

Injury Concerns

Ball State:
Running back Caleb Huntley (undisclosed) is out for the season. Offensive lineman Kevin Meeder (undisclosed), offensive lineman Luke Martin (undisclosed), and wide receiver Qian Magwood (undisclosed) are all out indefinitely.

Buffalo:
Defensive end Taylor Riggins (undisclosed) is questionable.

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When Ball State Has the Ball

A few weeks ago, this would have been a battle of the best running backs in the MAC, as Caleb Huntley has been the top ground performer in the Western Division. However, Huntley has missed the past three games with injury and announced that he’s pulling out of the rest of the season in order to focus on the NFL draft. But even with Huntley gone, the Cardinals still have a quality running game. Will Jones performed well when needed in the win over Western Michigan, picking up 71 yards and keeping the Broncos’ defense from focusing solely on the Ball State passing attack.

The pass really is the bread and butter for the Cardinals, who have relied on Drew Plitt and a core of experienced wide receivers to pick apart defenses. Justin Hall, Yo’Heinz Tyler, and Antwan Davis have proven a matchup nightmare for just about everyone they’ve faced in this brief season. One out of every ten completions from Plitt has gone for a touchdown, and 10 of the Cardinals’ 13 receiving touchdowns have gone to one of their three wideouts. It was Tyler who did most of the damage against the Broncos, picking up 175 receiving yards in the win.

When Buffalo Has the Ball

Here’s how dominant the Buffalo ground game has been this season: Kevin Marks is the backup running back for the Bulls and ranks fifth in the MAC in rushing yards. Absolutely nobody has been able to stop Jaret Patterson, who has gained a mind-boggling 1,025 rushing yards in just five games. Patterson has been so dominant that despite Buffalo sitting out half the season and having one game canceled, he ranks eighth in the nation in rushing yards, in part because he’s racked up 8.3 yards per carry.

With Patterson and Marks crushing it on the ground, it’s easy to dismiss Buffalo as being only a running team, but the Bulls have a solid receiver in Antonio Nunn and a reliable quarterback in Kyle Vantrease. The Bulls prefer not to pass, but they can do it when they have to, which is why MAC teams haven’t loaded up to stop the ground game. Nunn’s numbers aren’t spectacular, but with 353 yards to his name, he’s proven that opponents have to at least show Buffalo’s pass attack some respect.

Betting Trends

Buffalo has been pretty reliable when it comes to covering the number, as the only exception has been a 42-17 win at Bowling Green that saw the spread set at a ridiculous 31.5 points. (The Bulls only won by 25.) Putting up points has been second nature for Buffalo this season, as the Bulls haven’t been held under 42 points all year.

That fits well with the trend of the over cashing in this matchup, as the teams have hit the number in six of their past eight matchups. But Ball State’s got a trend working in its favor as well, as the underdog has been the way to bet this series as of late. In the past five meetings between the teams — dating back to the 2008 MAC title game — the underdog has cashed every time. The Cardinals have also had the better of this series historically, winning nine of the 11 meetings all-time between the teams. However, considering that they haven’t played since 2017, take that with a pinch of salt.

Weather Report

There’s no weather to speak of in the Lions’ dome, so there’s nothing to worry about here.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

I see points and lots of them in this matchup, but I’m a bit worried about whether the Cardinals can slow down the Buffalo backs. Western Michigan built its lead on Ball State because the Cardinals couldn’t stop La’Darius Jefferson and Jaxson Kincaide on the ground. The Broncos have a good running game, but it’s nothing compared to what Buffalo’s done all year.

I think the Bulls will claim the MAC crown in a game I expect to be a high-scoring contrast of styles. Give me Buffalo. Did you know that you could be betting on games at -105 odds instead of the -110 you’re getting socked? Pencil out the difference. You’d be saving hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars per year! Find this killer offer at BetAnySports!