Bettors Should Be Bullish On NIU In MAC Title Game Vs. Buffalo

mac title game

Rainman M.

Monday, November 26, 2018 12:49 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 12:49 PM UTC

Get the latest on the MAC Title Game. Buffalo and Northern Illinois play on Friday evening on ESPN 2 in Detroit. Bet confidently with tips from SBRpicks.com.

Buffalo (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs Northern Illinois (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS)Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Detroit (ESPN2)Free NCAAF Pick: Huskies +4Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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To inspire both championship contenders with the winning aura of the Detroit Lions, this game will be played on neutral Ford Field in Detroit. Both teams will meet for the first time this season. Each team is guaranteed a bowl berth by having won its respective MAC division.

Defense wins championships. Northern Illinois boasts the nation’s second best rushing defense. It yields 2.6 YPC and concedes the sixth-lowest percentage of carries that gain at least four yards. The Huskies boast the conference’s top defensive line, led by last year’s MAC Defensive Player of the Year Sutton Smith, who leads the team with eight tackles for loss. The linebacking crew, like the defensive line, returned significant experience and talent. Antonio Jones-Davis leads the bunch with 7.5 tackles for loss. Overall, Northern Illinois’ front seven ranks 14th in havoc rate because of its ability to tackle the opponent behind the line of scrimmage.

NIU’s strength on defense makes it a solid match-up against a Buffalo offense that executes run plays with the 32nd-highest frequency. Buffalo runs nearly 60 percent of the time. The Bulls’ ability to run the ball well has decisive betting significance. Buffalo is 6-0 ATS when running for over 160 rush yards. Conversely, the Bulls’ three non-covers each came when they ran for fewer than 160 rush yards.

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The Huskies’ front seven allows their secondary to stay back and concentrate on pass coverage, which is why its defensive backs have such a low havoc rate. The secondary ranks 31st in opposing passer rating. For example, they limited one of the conference’s best quarterbacks in Gus Ragland to his lowest passer rating against a conference opponent. Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson has accrued strong numbers against the weaker pass defenses in the conference. However, Jackson failed to complete at least 54 percent of his passes, to throw for more touchdowns than interceptions, or achieve a passer rating of at least 120 against both of his conference opponents that ranks in the top-40 in opposing passer rating, Akron and Central Michigan. In each of those games, Buffalo’s awesome rush attack was able to bail out Jackson. But it won’t be able to do that against NIU.

Northern Illinois features a run-first offense and a conservative pass attack. Quarterback Marcus Childers seems to rarely throw beyond the line of scrimmage. He is more dangerous, though, when he’s able to use his legs. Unlike his last opponent, Buffalo will offer Childers ample opportunity to scramble for nice gains. The Bulls consistently allow opposing quarterbacks to run well. For example, Miami’s Gus Ragland, although not much of a scrambler, achieved his longest run of the season and nearly a season high in rushing yards against Buffalo. Likewise, Ohio’s Nathan Rourke achieved against Buffalo his longest run on the season and his best rushing average against a conference opponent. Moreover, Central Michigan’s putrid offense achieved 24 points against Buffalo largely thanks to the scrambling ability of Tommy Lazzaro. Lazzaro ran for 108 yards on 19 carries, easily producing a season high in yards per carry and nearly a season high in both longest run and rushing yards. Lazzaro’s feat was especially impressive because, unlike Rourke and Ragland, he’s an atrociously bad passer. Buffalo knew he would run, but still couldn’t stop him.

The Huskies’ strength is in its rush attack. Tre Harbison and Marcus Jones average well over five yards per carry. Because of them, NIU matches up well against a Buffalo defense whose strength is in its secondary. The Bulls rank 65th in opposing YPC and are allowing 5.2 YPC in their last three games. They allowed over 400 rush yards against an Ohio team whose offensive line allows its running back to be stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage with the 23rd-lowest frequency. While Buffalo recently bullied opposing rush attacks like Kent State and Bowling Green who rank outside the top 120 in the category, they won’t find success against a Huskies’ o-line that ranks seven spots ahead of Ohio in the category.

Most bettors are all over the small chalk offered by the NCAAF odds board. But, for reasons given above, Northern Illinois makes for a strong NCAAF Pick.

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