MAC Picks: Buffalo vs. Northern Illinois

by | Nov 2, 2020 | cfb

Buffalo Bulls (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)

When: Wednesday, November 4, 7 p.m.

Where: Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, Ill.

TV: ESPN2

Point Spread: BUFF -10/NIU +10 (GTBets - Deposit $100 to $500 and they’ll match your deposit dollar for dollar with a REAL CASH bonus!)

Total: O/U Off

Outlook

Early week MACtion returns this week with a matchup that has somehow been one-way traffic for the entirety of Buffalo’s time as a MAC member. Since 1999, Buffalo has gone from league doormat to competitive squad and genuine contender in the MAC’s Eastern Division, but there’s one thing that the Bulls haven’t managed to do: beat Northern Illinois. In their history, the Bulls are 0-11 against the Huskies, the only team they don’t have at least two victories against. That includes 2018, the last time the teams met, which saw the Huskies earn not one, but two one-point wins over the Bulls.

But this appears to be when the skid finally ends, as Northern Illinois doesn’t seem to have the experience or personnel to challenge the Bulls, who are expected to contend for the MAC title. On the other hand, the Huskies saw several experienced players leave at the end of last season and weren’t all that great with the players they had anyway, finishing just 5-7 last season. Things don’t appear to be a lot rosier this season, as Northern Illinois finds itself needing to replace its entire secondary as well as parts of its offensive line from last year’s team. Can the Huskies somehow find a way to keep this from becoming an offensive shootout?

How the Public is Betting the Buffalo/Northern Illinois Game

The total hasn’t had time to get established, but the public is clearly on the Huskies’ side, with 71 percent of bets backing Northern Illinois. However, that has yet to move the needle.

Injury Concerns

Buffalo:
Running back Dylan McDuffie is suspended for the season.

Northern Illinois:
Running back Jeyvon Ducker, is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

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When Buffalo Has the Ball

A year ago, the Bulls caught fire a little too late to make a run into the MAC title game. This year, Buffalo doesn’t have the luxury of a slow start with the MAC playing a six-game season. That means they’re going to have to get the ground game going right away, and that means that Jaret Patterson has to be ready to run for big yardage from the word go. Last year, the only team in the MAC to beat the Bulls when Patterson rushed for at least 145 yards was league champion Miami, while two of the Bulls’ three defeats in the league came when Patterson ran for under that number.

When Patterson gets going, he’s virtually impossible to stop, but he’s not the only threat in the Buffalo backfield. Kevin Marks is a solid No. 2 running back who will get his fair share of touches. An ideal game for the Bulls will see Patterson and Marks combine to touch the ball at least 40 times, with the passing attack barely making much of a mark at all. Kyle Vantrease offered adequate play at quarterback a season ago after coming in at the midseason mark, but the Bulls will not ask him to do anything beyond not losing the game. Antonio Nunn is the only real threat in the Buffalo passing game, and while his 687 receiving yards were a solid total, that was over 300 yards fewer than Marks, Buffalo’s No. 2 running option, gained on the ground. Nunn should be a solid weapon in 3rd down situations, but even with him on the field, Buffalo will only pass when it’s absolutely necessary.

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When Northern Illinois Has the Ball

Here’s the biggest problem for Northern Illinois: their leading offensive weapon from last year has been playing for the past two months — for Charlotte. Tre Harbison was a 1,000-yard rusher last season, but he chose to leave, leaving behind a backfield with a lot of inexperience. Jordan Nettles now gets his shot to step in as the main man in the backfield, but he’s not exactly coming off an encouraging two years in his collegiate career. So far, he’s averaged just under four yards a carry and has not once visited the end zone in 128 carries for the Huskies. There’s nobody else on the roster who had more than ten carries last year, so Nettles pretty much has to step up his performance.

The good news for the Huskies is that they’ve got plenty of experience on the field in their passing attack. Ross Bowers threw for 2,130 yards last season after returning from missing almost all of 2018, and without Harbison in the backfield, he’s the unquestioned leader of this offense. A year ago, he sometimes seemed unsure of himself, especially down the stretch.

However, not having Harbison was a problem last season for the Huskies, as they played three games with Bowers as the quarterback and Nettles as the main back in 2019 and lost all of them. Granted, they were against Utah, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt, but except for the game against the Commodores, Northern Illinois wasn’t competitive against any of them and didn’t score more than 18 points in any of those games.

Betting Trends

The home team has tended to have a pretty big advantage in this series when it comes to the spread, as the host has covered in five of the past seven matchups. However, without fans in the stands, it remains to be seen as to whether Northern Illinois will have the same advantage that it usually does in DeKalb. Then again, the location hasn’t meant much of anything for Buffalo as of late in this matchup, as the teams have played in Buffalo, DeKalb, and Detroit over their past five meetings, and Buffalo has only covered the number once in that stretch.

If there’s one thing that bettors have been able to count on in this matchup (besides NIU eventually getting a win), it’s the Huskies putting up a lot of points. Over the past 12 meetings, NIU has scored 30 or more on 11 occasions, with the lone exception coming in a 14-13 win in Buffalo in 2017. Conversely, not only have the Bulls never topped that number against the Huskies, but they seldom come close to it. Over the past ten meetings (which dates back to 2000), the Bulls have been held to 14 or less on seven occasions, and they’ve never scored more than 14 points in DeKalb as a member of the MAC (they managed it once back in 1970, long before Buffalo was part of the conference).

Weather Report

November will feel more like October on Wednesday in DeKalb, with temperatures hitting 64 degrees and little precipitation. Wind could be a factor, with winds coming from the south-southwest at 10 miles per hour.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

Northern Illinois is very much a work in progress, while Buffalo is an experienced team that knows what it’s doing and who it is. It’s tough to give this many points in this kind of situation, as Buffalo has never managed to have any kind of success in DeKalb. However, with no experienced running game, there’s no reason other than history to pick the Huskies here.

I’m skittish about the 10 points and might look to live-bet this game, or even take the under once it goes on the board. But if I have to make a pick on the result, I’m going with the Bulls. Bet your Week 10 college football picks for FREE by taking advantage of a 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $300 at one of the best sportsbooks on the web ——-> MyBookie!