College Football MAC Championship Betting Picks: #21 Northern Illinois Huskies vs. #17 Kent State Golden Flashes

2012 Mid-American Conference Championship Game
#21 Northern Illinois Huskies vs #17 Kent State Golden Flashes
Friday, November 30, 2012, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan
Opening Line: Northern Illinois -5
Current Line: Northern Illinois -6 1/2
Opening Total: 58
Current Total: 57 1/2
Opening Money Line: NIU -215 / Kent St +185
Current Money Line: NIU -255 / Kent St +215

Northern Illinois takes on Kent St Friday night in the MAC Championship game in Detroit. Both teams are 11-1 this season and ranked in the BCS standings.

Both the #21 Northern Illinois Huskies and #17 Kent State Golden Flashes are 11-1 overall and 8-0 in the MAC. While many expected Northern Illinois to be here as they are the defending MAC Champs, no one expected Kent St to be so good. The Golden Flashes won 5 games last year and were predicted to finish fourth in the MAC East division in the pre-season polls.

Besides the conference Championship, there could be a lot more at stake, especially for Kent State. The Flashes are #17 in the latest BCS standings. If Kent jumps to #16 or higher, then the Flashes will automatically qualify for a lucrative BCS bowl game, knocking out potential at large teams like Oklahoma or Clemson. Northern Illinois could do the same, but at #21 it would be much harder for them to move up 5 spots as they would need losses from UCLA, Texas, and Boise St ahead of them. If neither moves into the top 16, then the winner will likely play in the Bowl in Mobile and the loser will return to Detroit for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.

This is the 24th meeting between the schools. Northern Illinois leads the series 16-7 and has won 5 straight games. The Huskies won last year in DeKalb 40-10. This is the first meeting between the schools at a neutral site and in the MAC Championship game. Kent State hasn’t won the MAC since 1972, and is making their first appearance in the title game.

Northern Illinois is coached by Dave Doeren. The Huskies have won 11 straight games since a season opening loss to Iowa 18-17 in Chicago. NIU has home wins over Tennessee-Martin 35-7, Kansas 30-23, Central Michigan 55-24, Buffalo 45-3, Massachusetts 63-0 and Toledo 31-24. The Huskies have road wins at Army 41-40, Ball St 35-23, Akron 37-7, Western Michigan 48-34, and last week against Eastern Michigan 49-7. NIU is 9-2-1 ATS and the total is 4-7 this season. The Huskies easily covered the 20.5 point spread against Eastern Michigan and the total was 60.

Northern Illinois is averaging 482.6 yards per game on offense, including 237.6 passing yards and 245 rushing yards. The Huskies are outscoring teams 41-18 this season. NIU is #16 nationally in total offense, #9 in rushing, #12 in scoring and #15 in points allowed. The Huskies are +8 in turnovers with 15 giveaways. NIU averages 55.4 penalty yards per game and has allowed 10 sacks. The Huskies are 96/188 on third and fourth down conversions and 48/62 scoring in the red zone with 44 touchdowns. On defense, the Huskies are allowing 364.9 yards per game, including 220 passing and 144.9 rushing yards. NIU has forced 36 sacks and 23 turnovers. Huskie opponents are 92/222 on third and fourth down conversions and 26/41 scoring in the red zone with 18 touchdowns.

NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch is the leading rusher and passer for the Huskies. He has completed 203 of 319 passes (63.6%) for 2,750 yards with 23 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Lynch also has 235 carries, 1,611 yards and 16 touchdowns. His numbers are actually better than presumptive Heisman favorites quarterbacks Collin Klein from Kansas St and Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.  Running back Leighton Settle has 101 carries, 453 yards, and 5 touchdowns, along with 4 catches for 20 yards. He is doubtful with an ankle injury and has missed the last 2 games. Akeem Daniels has 48 carries, 304 yards and 8 touchdowns, along with 14 catches, 125 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keith Harris, Jr. has 55 carries, 226 yards and 4 touchdowns. Harris has also missed the last two games but isn’t listed on the injury report. Matt McIntosh has 25 carries, 92 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver Martel Moore has 67 catches, 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tommylee Harris has 40 catches, 474 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 16 carries, 95 yards and a touchdown. He also has a kick return for a touchdown. He has 26 catches for 316 yards and a touchdown. No other Huskie receiver has more than 15 catches.

Kent State is coached by Darrell Hazell. The only loss for the Golden Flashes came at Kentucky 47-14. Kent St has won 10 games in a row since then. The Golden Flashes have home wins over Towson 41-21, Ball St 45-43, Western Michigan 41-24, Akron 35-24, and last week at Ohio 28-6. Kent has road wins at Buffalo 23-7, Eastern Michigan 41-14, Army 31-17, Rutgers 35-23, Miami-(OH) 48-32, and Bowling Green 31-24. Kent St is 10-2 ATS and the total is 7-4 this season. The Golden Flashes were 9.5 point favorites against Ohio and the total was 59.

Kent State is averaging 402.2 yards per game on offense, including 160.7 passing yards and 241.5 rushing yards. The Golden Flashes are #115 nationally in passing and #11 in rushing. Kent St is outscoring teams 34-24 this season. Kent St is +20 in turnovers with 15 giveaways. The Flashes have allowed 16 sacks this season, and average 46.7 penalty yards per game. Kent is 71/180 on third and fourth down conversions and 36/43 scoring in the red zone with 26 touchdowns. On defense, the Golden Flashes are allowing 409.9 yards per game, including 281.9 passing and 128 rushing yards. Kent is #116 in pass defense and #24 in rush defense. The Flashes have forced 35 turnovers and 29 sacks this season. Kent St opponents are 74/194 on third and fourth down conversions and 30/40 scoring in the red zone with 20 touchdowns. The Golden Flashes have 7 defensive/special teams touchdowns.

Kent St quarterback Spencer Keith has completed 151 of 264 passes (57.2%) for 1,674 yards with 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 58 carries, 190 yards and 4 touchdowns. Keith also has a touchdown catch. Do-everything running back Dri Archer leads the Golden Flashes in rushing and receiving. He has over 2,300 all purpose yards. Archer has 138 carries, 1,337 yards, and 14 touchdowns, along with 30 catches, 458 yards, and 4 touchdowns. He averages 38.2 yards per kick return with 3 touchdowns. He even has a touchdown pass to Keith. Archer is probable with an ankle injury. Trayion Durham has 236 catches, 1,176 yards, and 14 touchdowns, along with 14 catches for 140 yards. Including the running backs, 7 Kent receivers have at least 14 catches. Josh Boyle has 27 catches, 327 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Matthew Hurdle has 27 catches, 250 yards and a touchdown. Eric Adeyemi has 17 catches, 238 yards and 3 touchdowns. Chris Humphrey and Tim Erjavec will also get a lot of targets.

Northern Illinois is 7-1-1 ATS after a straight up win, overall, and on fieldturf, 5-1 after a cover, and after rushing for more than 200 yards, 4-1 against teams with winning records, 7-2 after allowing less than 275 yards, 3-1-1 after scoring more than 40 points, and after allowing 170 passing yards or less, 9-3-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 18-7-1 in MAC games,  7-3 in November, and 3-8 in neutral site games. The Huskies have covered the last 5 games against Kent State, and the favorite is 4-1 in those games.

Kent State is 6-0 ATS after allowing 20 points or less, 4-0 against teams with winning records, 8-1 after a straight up win, and after rushing for 200 yards or more, 7-1 in MAC games, and after a cover, 14-2 on fieldturf, 5-1 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 14-3 overall, 4-1-1 in Friday games, and 7-2 in November. Four of the last 5 games in this series have gone under the total.

Kent State has beaten 12 straight MAC teams, and Northern Illinois has won 16 straight conference games. Northern Illinois has been a little under the radar this season. Ohio, Toledo, and Kent St have all been ranked at some point in the season but Northern Illinois wasn’t in the BCS standings until this week. This is despite having the nation’s second longest winning streak behind 12-0 Ohio St and Notre Dame. If Archer is hobbled by the ankle injury, that definitely hurts Kent State’s chances. I like Northern Illinois to win a close game.

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