Toledo Rockets (6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (3-8 SU, 1-10 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Week 12 NCAA Football, Friday, November 18, 2011, Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, Mich., TV: ESPNU
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Tol -14/CMU +14
Over/Under Total: 72
The Toledo Rockets still need some help in order to win a Mid-American Conference West Division title, but first they need to take care of their own business and that means nothing less than a victory this Friday when they travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas in Kelly/Shorts Stadium on ESPNU.
The Rockets were in the proverbial drivers seat up till a few weeks ago, but a 63-60 loss at home to Northern Illinois may have cost them a shot at the West title. Now Toledo will need someone to knock off the Huskies for a chance at redemption and the MAC West crown, but thats almost putting the cart in front of the horse.
Toledo needs to win their final two games as well, and they might need to tighten the screws a little on defense if they hope to cash in that chance.
Last Tuesday the Rockets were involved in another 129-point, 1,400-plus total yards and 10 turnover MAC shootout, but this time they came out on the winning end of a 66-63 victory over Western Michigan. In back-to-back weeks the Rockets have amassed nearly 1,400 yards of total offense and scored 126 points, but theyve also allowed nearly 1,200 yards and 123 points on defense, a pace Toledo cannot continue at if they want to compete for championships.
The good news is that theyll face a Central Michigan team that is having a season to forget in the MAC this year.
After starting the MAC schedule with a bang, a 48-41 upset of Northern Illinois back on October 1st, the Chippewas have struggled to win games. Theyve been competitive, but they just cant turn the corner to win one (other than a one point victory over winless Akron).
Last week the Chippewas were run over by the Ohio Bobcats in a, 43-28, loss at home. Quarterback Ryan Radcliff continued to pad his outstanding stats (362 yards, 3 TD), but the Chippewas defense gave up 309 yards rushing and five yards a carry in the lopsided loss.
This will be the season finale for the Chippewas in Kelly/Shorts Stadium, and with no bowl bid to prepare for it could be the perfect time to set the tone for next year and spring a huge upset against the Rockets in front of the home crowd.
How big of an upset would it be for Central Michigan you ask? Well, if you use the fact that oddsmakers set the opening point spread in this game with Toledo as 14-point favorites, it would qualify as a pretty big one. It doesnt appear like too many are buying into the thought of an upset either, since the number has actually gone up to minus -14.5 or -15 at a few of the offshore sportsbooks on the Internet.
With Toledo averaging 1,300 yards and 123 points per game the past few weeks, it should come as no surprise that the opening over/under total was set at the whopping total of 72. With the betting public having little faith in either defense, a couple of books have moved the number up to 73 in order to try and find anyone to wager on the under.
The Rockets offense is one of the top units in the country, with a solid run-pass mix that is led by a two-headed quarterback duo of Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens. Dantin is supposedly more of the passing quarterback, with 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns (only 3 INT), but the mobile Owens has done a lot this season to dispel the running label since his passing numbers (1,270 yards, 67 %, 9 TD, 3 INT) are almost as strong as Dantins in the role.
Overall the Rockets lead in the MAC in scoring offense (41.8 ppg) and total offense (490 ypg), and as theyve shown on national television the past few weeks they can put points up in bunches from anywhere on the field.
But Central Michigan can also rack up the yardage on offense, ranked 5th in the MAC at 393 yards a game with a large hunk of it coming via the arm of Radcliff and Chippewas passing game (278 ypg passing 3rd in MAC). The biggest difference is that the Chippewas dont always finish drives, since their 23 points per game average is way down the list as the 8th best mark in the MAC.
What will be interesting to watch is how well Radcliff and the Chippewas pass the ball and score touchdowns this week, since the Toledo pass defense is 12th in the 13-team MAC allowing 278 yards passing a game in conference play. The Rockets defense also tends to let teams score, sometimes seemingly so they can get it back on offense, since they are 10th in the MAC allowing 32.6 points per game.
Central Michigans defense is not much better either, ranked 9th in scoring (32.4 ppg) and 10th in total defense (421 ypg), so on paper this one looks like it might turn into another one of those defense optional MAC shootouts on ESPNU Friday night.
Toledo snapped the five-game winning streak the Chippewas had on the Rockets in last seasons matchup in the Glass Bowl, 42-31. But you have to keep in mind that Central Michigan held that five-game advantage (4-1 ATS too) during the Brian Kelly-Butch Jones coaching era at the school and while Dan LeFevour was the Chippewas quarterback, and all of them have since moved on to bigger programs and the NFL, so were really looking at apples and oranges when you look at the history of these two teams.
When you take out the five year run the series evens out a little bit, with the straight up series even at five wins a piece (5-5 SU) and the against the spread record a 5-4-1 ATS mark during the last decade.
As far as betting trends go, you might want to pass on this game.
Central Michigan has been awful this year (1-10 ATS) and has been awful for a few years now (5-16 ATS last 21 overall). The Chippewas are not much better under the Friday Night Lights either, going 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine attempts. But the home team is 4-0 ATS in the last four head-to-head meetings.
Its hard to back Toledo in this spot too, since they are 2-5 ATS in the last seven meetings with the Chippewas and 1-3-1 ATS when they play at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Rockets are also 2-7 ATS as a road favorite (1-4 ATS when favored by more than 10.5 points).
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: With as bad as the Rockets defense has been playing, it scares the be-Jesus out of me to say this but I think they can cover the big number on Friday. Central Michigan will have trouble stopping Toledo, so Im hoping the Rockets run it up a little to keep pressure on the team in front of them in the standings (Northern Illinois). Im taking Toledo minus the points.
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