This year's MAC Championship is a rematch from 2013 as the Northern Illinois Huskies tangle with the Bowling Green Falcons. Join us for a preview and free college football pick.
Playing in the MAC Championship is becoming old hat for the Northern Illinois Huskies as they prepare for their fifth consecutive conference title matchup. Just don't make the mistake of thinking Rod Carey's crew might adopt a ho-hum attitude about this year's tilt since they have a shot at exacting a little revenge.
The Bowling Green Falcons will be the target of Northern Illinois' revenge in this rematch from last year's MAC Championship Game. Ford Field in Detroit hosts the affair this Friday, and the clash will be televised by ESPN2 beginning at 7 PM (ET).
Sports books have been slow to release lines for the contest, but a few have gotten out quickly with the Huskies favored by 5½-6 points. The rest should start showing up on SBR's live College Football odds soon along with a total.
Falcons Aim For Another Upset Over NIU
The teams met almost exactly a year ago on the same field to decide matters in the Mid-American Conference. Northern Illinois brought a perfect 12-0 record into the battle and was ranked 16th in the country with hopes of a second-straight BCS invite.
Bowling Green wrecked those dreams right from the start as the Falcons built an 18-point halftime lead en route to a 47-27 upset. The Huskies were giving up three and the final score was enough to go past a 58 point total thanks in large part to Falcons QB Matt Johnson throwing a career-high five touchdown passes along with a personal-best 393 yards.
Despite playing in the same conference, it has been rare for the schools to meet in consecutive years with Friday's fracas marking the first time since the 2002-04 seasons the Falcons and Huskies have gotten together on back-to-back schedules. Bowling Green's victory last December stopped a 3-game win streak for NIU and gave the Falcons an 11-7 lead in the series.
BGSU Reaches Championship On 2-Game Slide
Bowling Green clinched a spot in this contest several weeks ago with a 30-20 win over Kent State that pushed the Falcons out to a 7-3 mark at that point. Dino Babers' club then apparently decided to take the rest of the regular season off and dropped their final two contests to Toledo and Ball State, ending the campaign on a 2-6-1 run against the college football spreads.
The Falcons won't be able to rely on Matt Johnson's right arm to bail them out against Northern Illinois this time. The junior was lost for the year after suffering a hip injury in Bowling Green's season-opening loss to Western Kentucky, leaving the task of running the offense to redshirt freshman James Knapke.
Knapke immediately directed the Falcons to consecutive wins and threw for 300+ yards four times, all BGSU triumphs and including a big 443-yard effort in a shootout vs. Massachusetts. He was totally ineffective in the loss to Toledo, however, and will be facing a tougher defense against NIU than he saw in that contest.
Close Wins The Norm During Huskies' 6-Game Streak
Carey's club is toting a 6-game win streak into this year's championship, emerging victorious in the last two as the underdog. Four of the last five dubyas came on the road, and the Huskies needed a big rally this past Friday to get past Western Michigan in Kalamazoo where they trailed by 14 late in the second quarter.
Sophomore Drew Hare picked up where former QB Jordan Lynch left off with the Huskies, tossing for a very efficient 15:1 TD/INT ratio on the season and leading the Northern Illinois rushing attack with 790 yards. The Huskies rank 18th in the country averaging more than 240 yards on the ground, and will face a BG defense that is 98th nationally allowing close to 200 yards per game.
We should see a total lower than last year's 58 once it does come out, and the 'under' has my initial interest. I'm also expecting the Huskies to get their revenge which is why laying the points will be my free College Football picks.
Free College Football Pick: Northern Illinois
Willie Bee's Handicapping Record for 2014-15 Season: 60-43-1 (+12.70)