Northern Illinois Huskies (9-2 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (8-3 SU, 10-1 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date and Time: Friday, November 28, 2014, 11:00 am EST
Where: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Mich.
TV: ESPNU, DirecTV 208
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: No.Ill. +8/W.Mich. -8
Over/Under Total: 58.5
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The Northern Illinois Huskies and the Western Michigan Broncos will be playing with the Mid-American West division title on the line in the wee-early morning hours the day after Thanksgiving, when the Huskies and Broncos tangle inside Waldo Stadium in Kalamzoo Friday on ESPNU.
While most of the college football experts fully expected the Huskies to get back to this point, the Broncos have stunned the MAC with their 6-1 record in the conference this season. The Broncos only loss was at the hands of Toledo, the third team tied atop the MAC-West, but the Rockets have already lost to Northern Illinois, setting up a game for all the marbles on Friday.
Western Michigan took care of business to set up this showdown, beating in-state rival Central Michigan last Saturday, 32-20. The win was the Broncos sixth in a row, with only a 20-19 overtime loss to Toledo as their only blemish this season.
Northern Illinois has gotten to this game nearly as quietly as a nine-win team could have, running off five straight wins following their only MAC loss of the season in a nasty, 34-17, loss at home to Central Michigan. Along the way the Huskies have had some stinkers (only beat Eastern Michigan 28-17), and some quality wins (a 27-24 victory over Toledo two weeks ago), but make no mistake about it, this isnt the Huskies first rodeo as theyve been down this road before as they try and win the MAC-West for the fourth year in a row on Friday. Although the Huskies are a young team overall, the coaching staff has been here before and theres something to be said about the calm and cool demeanor they present each week since their stumble against the Chippewas.
Interestingly enough, sportsbooks have been caught in a dilemma for this game. When they opened this MAC-West showdown with Western Michigan as a full touchdown 7-point favorite at home in Waldo Stadium, public bettors with Northern Illinois and their history in their minds bet the Huskies side enough to keep the number close. But since then, sharp bettors have been all over the Borncos, causing the number to climb quick up to minus -8 at most sportsbooks even though the early money has been just about 50-50.
The over/under total didnt go up on the board until mid-day on Tuesday, and with two of the MACs top offenses set to clash, it opened large with 58.5 being where most books set the opening number right off the bat.
As mentioned, there should be no shortage of offense in this game. Western Michigan piles up 452 yards per game on offense, and the Huskies are no slouch indeed gaining 441 each week out. Where these two differ in in the method of accomplishing all those yards.
The Broncos feature more of a balanced attack behind the throwing of Zach Terrell and the running of sensational freshman Jarvion Franklin. Franklin has burst onto the scene this season with 1,433 yards and 24 touchdowns thus far, and Terrell has been the biggest benefactor of his running style as he is quickly approaching the 3,000 mark (2,890 yards) with one regular season game left on the schedule. The Huskies defense will be hard pressed to stop the Broncos, since they give up nearly 400 yards a game including 227 in the air, but they are a bend-but-dont-break unit as they only allow 24.5 points per game so they seem to have a knack for stopping teams in the red zone.
Northern Illinois pounds the ball via the running game, with Drew Hare the next in line when it comes to Huskies quarterbacks running the option game to perfection, as Hare currently leads the team in rushing (754 yards) and passing (1,720) as they try at get back to the MAC title game for a fourth straight year. However, the Western Michigan defense has been pretty stout against the run this year (allow 139 ypg 32nd in FBS), so it will be interesting to watch how successful Hare and the Huskies will be even though they sport an exceptional experienced offensive line in front of him.
As you would expect, Northern Illinois has owned the series against the Broncos in recent years, winning five straight dating back to the 2009 season. Last year in DeKalb the Huskies dispatched of them in easy fashion, winning 33-14. However, the Broncos were incredibly 35-point underdogs, so the covered the number for the first time since 2006. All told, not only are the Huskies 5-0 SU the past five meetings, but they are 5-1-1 ATS when you carry it back to the 2007 season in their last seven meetings on the field. That number only gets better, to the tune of 10-2-1 ATS, when you go back to the last 13 meetings
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I have been one of the Broncos biggest fans this season, cashing in on several of their 10 point spread covers this year. Full disclosure aside though, the Broncos have not been this large of a favorite all season (I dont count the -28 they covered against Eastern Michigan a program that would struggle against most FCS teams). That fact alone, plus the fact that Northern has been here and done that makes me very leery of backing them again in this spot. As much as it pains me to say it, Ive got to side with the Huskies and the points on this one. Im taking Northern Illinois plus the 8-points on Friday.