Toledo Rockets (8-2 SU, 6-4 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (9-1 SU, 8-1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 12
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 9:00 p.m. EST
Where: Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, Ill.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Tol +10.5/NIU -10.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The Northern Illinois Huskies can clinch a second-consecutive Mid-American Conference West Division title and birth in the MAC championship game if they can take care of business Wednesday night against the Toledo Rockets at home in Huskie Stadium.
Wednesday’s primetime game on ESPN2 was supposed to be for all the marbles in the MAC West, but Toledo didn’t hold up their end of the bargain when they were upset on Election night at home by Ball State, 34-27. The Rockets ran for 311 yards and appeared to take control of the game early in the fourth quarter, but Ball State went 8-for-12 on third down in the game and put together a game-winning drive to seal the upset in the final minute and 43 seconds.
Now Toledo’s only hope at the division title is to beat the Huskies in their own stadium and hope they win the tie breaker.
But beating the Huskies in DeKalb is going to be a tough task. Northern Illinois hasn’t lost since their season-opener against Iowa (lost 18-17), winning nine straight mostly by huge margins including the last time they played against Massachusetts, 63-0. Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch is one of the best players in college football who nobody has heard of, and with 3,517 yards of total offense the junior will take his shot at making a Heisman statement in primetime for everyone to see.
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Even though these two teams are fairly comparable on paper, oddsmakers set the opening point spread for the game with Northern Illinois as rather large 10.5-point favorite in Huskie Stadium.
As of press time the over/under total is still off the board.
When the Rockets and Huskies meet on Wednesday there is likely to be a lot of offense, and not just because these two play in the defensively-challenged MAC.
Northern Illinois is No. 1 in just about every offensive category in the MAC, including yards (478 ypg), rushing (250.9 ypg) and scoring where they put up over 40 points per game (40.6 9th in FBS). Lynch has been spectacular in his first season as the Huskies starter, piling up 351.7 yards per game by himself both running (134 ypg - 2nd in MAC) and throwing in the Huskies option-style offense.
Toledo isn’t a pushover on offense either. The Rockets are 3rd in the MAC in offense (461.8 ypg) and 4th in scoring at 33.6 points a game. The Rockets have the leading rusher in the MAC in David Fluellen (138 ypg) and one of the most dangerous runner/receiver/returner triple threats in the MAC in Bernard Reedy (170 all-purp. ypg), so they are one of the few teams in the MAC capable of matching the Huskies score-for-score.
If that means the difference will come down to defense, then the edge has to go to the Huskies. Northern Illinois has only allowed 17.9 points per game (2nd in MAC) because they have been excellent in red zone defense allowing their opponents to score in just 21 of their 34 trips inside the 20 yard-line. They also lead the MAC in sacks with 30, lead by an exciting trio of ends Sean Progar (8), Alan Baxter (7.5) and Joe Windsor (6.5).
Toledo’s defense has been very opportunistic, near the top of the MAC with a +9 turnover ratio, but their weakness against the pass (allow 288 ypg - 13th in 13-team MAC) has cost them several big plays as well as a few methodical drives down the stretch including last week in their loss to Ball State.
Northern Illinois has gotten the better of the Rockets of late too, winning two in a row and three of the last four meetings including last year’s shootout, 63-60. Yes, that was not a hoops score, both teams obliterated the closing total of 69.5 and the Huskies covered the spread easily as 9.5-point underdogs on the road at the Glass Bowl.
But traditionally Toledo has owned this series for bettors, going 9-4-1 ATS in the last 14 head-to-head meetings with their rivals in the MAC West. However, a lot of it has come at home (home team is 4-1 ATS in L%) and as the underdog (dog is 7-3 ATS in L10) in the series over the past decade.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I expect a little sticker shock when a total is finally released, and it would not surprise me one bit to see it open in the mid 70s. The Huskies best opponent thus far has been Western Michigan, and Toledo is a much better team then the Broncos. Northern Illinois will likely win the game, but it won’t be as easy as the oddsmakers are predicting. Toledo will keep it close, so I’m taking Toledo plus the 10.5-points.
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