College Football MAC Championship Betting Picks: Bowling Green Falcons vs #14 Northern Illinois Huskies

2013 Marathon MAC Championship Game
Bowling Green Falcons vs #14 Northern Illinois Huskies

Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan
Friday, December 6, 2013, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: Northern Illinois -3
Current Line: Northern Illinois -4
Opening Total:  57 1/2
Current Total: 58 1/2
Opening Money Line: NIU -145 / BGSU +125
Current Money Line: NIU -190 / BGSU +165

Northern Illinois is a 3.5 point favorite against Bowling green in Friday's MAC championship game in Detroit.
Northern Illinois is a 4 point favorite against Bowling green in Friday’s MAC championship game in Detroit.

It has been an amazing four year run for Northern Illinois and senior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has led the Huskies to four straight MAC Championship games. Last year as a junior, Lynch led NIU to a MAC title and a berth in the Orange Bowl, where the Huskies hung tough with Florida State for 3 quarters before the Seminoles pulled away in the fourth quarter. This year, Northern Illinois is 12-0 and #14 in the BCS standings. If the Huskies beat a talented Bowling Green team in Friday’s MAC Championship game in Detroit, NIU is projected to qualify for another BCS Bowl, likely the Fiesta Bowl against the Big 12 Champion. The Huskies must finish either in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or ahead of likely AAC champion #16 Central Florida to guarantee a spot in a BCS bowl for the second straight year. Even Lynch has a very good shot at being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and is a dark horse to win the award.

The Huskies won the MAC West Division with an 8-0 conference record. Bowling Green is 9-3 this season and won the MAC East with a 7-1 record. The Huskies have won 3 MAC titles including the last two. The Falcons are projected to go back to Detroit for the Little Caasars Pizza Bowl whether they win or lose against Northern Illinois. Bowling Green has won 10 MAC titles but none since 1992. The Huskies could fall as far as the Bowl in Mobile, Alabama with a loss. Bowling Green leads the series 10-7 against Northern Illinois, but the Huskies have won three straight games in the series including 45-14 in 2011.

Bowling Green is coached by Dave Clawson. The Falcons have losses at Indiana 42-10, at Mississippi State 21-20 and at home against Toledo 28-25. Bowling Green has won four straight games after a 2 game losing streak. The Falcons have home wins over Tulsa 34-7, Murray State 48-7, Akron 31-14,  Massachusetts 28-7 and Ohio 49-0, along with road wins at Kent State 41-22, Miami-(OH) 45-3, Eastern Michigan 58-7, and last week at Buffalo 24-7. Bowling Green is 9-3 ATS and the total is 3-9 this season. Bowling Green was a 3.5 point favorite at Buffalo and the total was 52.

Buffalo hosted Bowling Green last Friday in a winner take all game for the East Division title. Buffalo took a 7-3 lead into halftime. However, the Falcons would score 21 unanswered points in the second half to clinch the division title 24-7. Bowling Green had 490 total yards including had 260 rushing yards. Buffalo had 236 total yards including 221 passing yards. Each team had two turnovers.

Bowling Green is outscoring teams 34-14 this season. The Falcons are #5 nationally in points allowed and #32 in scoring out of 125 FBS teams. Bowling Green is averaging 464.1 yards per game including 254.4 passing and 209.7 rushing yards. The Falcons are #40 or better in all three categories nationally. On defense, Bowling Green is allowing 296.6 total yards including 161.8 passing and 134.8 rushing yards. The Falcons are #7 in total defense, including the #4 pass defense and #28 rush defense in the country. Bowling Green is +9 in turnovers with 19 takeaways. The Falcons average 45 penalty yards per game and opponents average 38. Bowling Green is 79/171 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 63/184. The Falcons have forced 27 sacks and allowed 22 this season. Bowling Green is 46/54 scoring in the red zone with 35 touchdowns and opponents are 15/26 with 15 touchdowns. Falcon opponents have converted only one field goal in six attempts this season. Bowling Green has 2 punt returns and 2 fumble returns for touchdowns this season and has allowed one pick six.

Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson has completed 63.2% for 2,802 yards with 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 95 carries for 235 yards and 5 touchdowns. Matt Schilz sometimes takes a few snaps and James Knapke threw a touchdown pass in garbage time of the blowout over Murray State. Each has thrown a touchdown pass this season.

Running back Travis Greene has 235 carries for 1,422 yards with 10 touchdowns, along with 14 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Andre Givens has 45 carries for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fred Coppet has 41 carries for 212 yards. He is questionable with a concussion. William Houston has 48 carries for 210 yards with 11 touchdowns.

Receiver Shaun Joplin has 47 catches for 807 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ryan Burbrink has 27 catches for 433 yards and a touchdown, plus a punt return for a touchdown. Alex Bayer has 27 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Gallon has 24 catches for 232 yards and 2 touchdowns, but is out for the season with a knee injury. Ronnie Moore has 22 catches for 390 yards and 6 touchdowns. Paul Senn has a punt return for a touchdown.Two other little used receivers Jared Cohen and Jermal Hosley are both out for the season.

Northern Illinois is coached by Rod Carey in his first season. The Huskies have road wins at Iowa 30-27, Idaho 45-35, Purdue 55-24, Kent State 38-24, Central Michigan 38-17, Massachusetts 63-19 and at Toledo 35-17. NIU has home wins over Eastern Illinois 43-39, Akron 27-20, Eastern Michigan 59-20, Ball State 48-27 and last week against Western Michigan 33-14. The Huskies are 8-4 ATS and the total is 7-5 this season. Northern Illinois was a 35 point favorite against Western Michigan and the total was 64.

NIU could have destroyed one win Western Michigan, but the Huskies didn’t really take the Broncos seriously. NIU took a 20-7 lead at halftime. The Huskies added 13 more points in the second half before the Broncos added a late touchdown to make the final 33-14. WMU had 256 total yards including 163 passing yards. NIU had 464 total yards including 425 rushing yards. Lynch rushed for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass. Each team had five penalties, and the Broncos had the only turnover of the game.

Northern Illinois is outscoring teams 43-24 this season. NIU is #9 nationally in scoring. The Huskies are averaging 542.3 yards per game (#4 nationally), including 318.9 rushing yards (#4 nationally) and 223.4 passing yards. On defense, NIU is allowing 411.4 yards per game including 263.8 passing yards and 147.6 rushing yards. The Huskies are #74 in total offense, and#110 in pass defense out of 125 teams. Northern Illinois is +14 in turnovers with 27 takeaways. The Huskies are averaging 48 penalty yards per game. and opponents are averaging 48.  NIU is 85/181 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 87/225. The Huskies have forced 30 sacks and allowed 8. NIU is 58/67 scoring in the red zone with 44 touchdowns, and their opponents are 29/34 with 22 touchdowns. The Huskies have 2 pick sixes and a kickoff return for a touchdown, and have allowed a kick return and a fumble return for touchdowns.

Lynch has completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,457 yards with 22 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Lynch is also the leading rusher with 248 carries, 1,755 yards and 20 touchdown. Running back Cameron Stingily has 180 carries, 1,007 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 5 catches.  James Spencer has 3 rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Keith Harris, Jr is out for the season with an ankle injury. He had 143 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, along with a receiving touchdown. Running back Akeem Daniels is also out indefinitely with a foot injury.

Receiver Da’Ron Brown has 42 catches, 689 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 40 rushing yards. Tommylee Lewis has 74 catches, 623 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 24 carries for 321 yards and a touchdown. He also has a kick return for a touchdown and even threw a touchdown pass. He is probable with a toe injury.  Juwan Brescacin has 24 catches for 398 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Tight end Luke Eakes has only 9 catches, but two of them have gone for touchdowns. Nine other receivers and running backs have caught touchdown passes. Two defensive players are listed as questionable or out Friday.

Bowling Green is 4-0 ATS in MAC games, after a straight up win, after allowing 275 total yards or less, and after allowing 20 points or less, 6-1 in Friday games, 5-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 4-1 against teams with winning records, 14-4 on fieldturf, 16-5 overall, 22-7 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 6-2 after gaining more than 450 total yards, and 1-3-1 in December. Four of the last five games in this series have gone under the total.

Northern Illinois is 5-1 ATS after a straight up win, and on fieldturf, 4-1-1 after failing to cover, 4-1 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 4-1-2 after allowing 170 passing yards or less, 15-4-2 after gaining more than 450 total yards, 3-1-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 24-9-2 in MAC games, 8-3-1 after passing for less than 170 yards, 7-3-1 after allowing less than 275 total yards, 33-16-3 overall, 1-3-1 in Friday games, 3-9-1 in neutral site games, and 1-5 in December.

Northern Illinois struggles on defense, especially against the pass. That is a little misleading though, because the offense usually scores so quickly that the defense gets tires after being on the field so often. Bowling Green has a dominant defense, but I don’t know if they slow down Lynch and the Huskie offense. The fact that the spread is only -4 seems like a bargain for NIU. I like the Huskies to win and clinch a second straight BCS berth.

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