Spread Offense: Week 9 MAC Football Odds

Mark A. Cunningham

Last week was another winning week for Hustle Belt. Vegas weeps.

Hola, MAC fans. Unquestionably Tuesday has become an important day on your sports calendar. The day we collect from our bookies, and lay down some more bread on MACtion. Week 8 continued the theme of slim margins, but resulted in beating Vegas for a fifth consecutive week. Of course we don't pick the Ball State games because it can be difficult to predict football results from a university with such good looking alumni. Additionally, Akron and Miami was a push, leaving just five games. We went 3-2 in those games, running our 2013 record to 23-21. That's a .522 winning percentage. Or if it helps, last season's Utah Jazz team. That team missed the playoffs. Well we don't miss the playoff in FBS. In fact we don't have playoffs at all (yet). We go to bowl games in tropical climates. Well, soon. Still, I don't want to be the Jazz. Time to win more. Time to row the boat. Your Week 9 picks:

Ball State (-11) at Akron

Ball State followed an all too familiar script last Saturday. The Cardinals were actually knotted up against winless Western Michigan through the first quarter in Kalamazoo. By the second however, the Ball State offensive machine was firing on all cylinders. Keith Wenning logged his eighth consecutive 300 yard passing game en route to a 38-17 victory that was not as close as the score would indicate. On Saturday Akron snapped a 28 game losing streak against FBS opponents, knocking off Miami 24-17. As a fan who suffered through a similar Ball State losing streak in the early 2000s, I can tell you that the victory has "elevated" the Zips from a nationally recognized story of futility to a bad two win team. Congratulations. Either way, the Zips have some momentum. This spread seems small, keep an eye on it through the week. Unlikely, but could have trap game written all over it.

Miami at Ohio (-24.5)

As stated above, Miami's loss to Akron has the RedHawks in the middle of the conversation for worst team in the MAC, maybe the worst team in the country. If there's one thing Miami can hang their hat on though, it's standing between the Hustle Belt and profits. Last week's push, in the worst MAC game ever played, a week after failing to cover against UMass, in the worst MAC game ever played to that point, makes the RedHawks a tricky team to bet on. Ohio on the other hand rebounded in a big way a week after being upset at home against Central Michigan. The Bobcats thumped Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, 56-28. Ohio has demonstrated their offense can put up points with the best of them. The Bobcats' offense ranks behind only Northern Illinois and Ball State in the MAC. Tyler Tettleton leads the conference in passing efficiency, and second in passing yards per game. This season Ohio has seen a couple of huge point spreads in its favor and managed to cover. It's a rivalry game, always hard to call, but this Ohio squad is too good on offense. Take the Bobcats, lay the points.

Toledo at Bowling Green (-4)

Last week's double overtime win over Navy was a costly one for Toledo. All-Universe running back David Fluellen left the game with a back injury in the fourth quarter. As of Monday, Fluellen has been listed as questionable for the rivalry game against Bowling Green. Fluellen has been nothing short of spectacular this season. The senior leads the conference in rushing yards per game, all purpose yards per game, and is second in rushing touchdowns. As a team Toledo averages nearly 225 rushing yards per game, good for 18th nationally, and 190 yards through the air, good for 102. Any measure of success Toledo will have on Saturday will depend on whether Fluellen suits up. Quarterback Terrance Owens isn't going to win this game with his arm. Two weeks ago Bowling Green nearly became the third MAC team to knock off an AQ opponent in as many weeks, losing narrowly at Mississippi State, 21-20. Matt Johnson and Travis Greene have teamed up to produce what may be the best offense in the MAC East. Johnson is third in passing yards per game in the conference, Greene is third in rushing yards. BGSU has a lot to play for, with Ohio and Buffalo hot on its heels to represent the East in the conference championship game. Fluellen or not, take the Falcons, lay the 4.

Western Michigan at UMass (-3)

Because I know that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of potential Division I college football coaches who read this blog, please take note. Win a couple of games before you go introducing new, fun, innovative traditions to your already disinterested fan base. If you do not, and you start 0-8, people will make fun of you for it. Readers won't have to look hard to find a number of examples on this. One could argue that Western Michigan's MVP a week ago was Ball State backup quarterback Ozzie Mann. Western scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth in an otherwise forgettable game for the Broncos. WMU has played just one game this season where they were beaten by one score. That was a loss against FCS opponent Nicholls State on September 7th. This may be the best opportunity for the Broncos to get a victory the rest of the season. Last Saturday UMass was destroyed by Buffalo, 32-3. The Minutemen managed just 247 yards of total offense in that game. Were it not for a fourth down stop in the final minute against Miami on October 12th, this could very well be a matchup of two teams looking for their first win. A.J. Doyle may be terrible, but Zach Terrell is terribler. Might we see Tyler Van Tubbergen? I've a better question for you, does it matter? The boat continues to sink. Take UMass, lay the points.

Buffalo at Kent State

Pick 'em time. Will come back and amend this article if/when we get a line. Buffalo has been on a tear of late. After dropping the first two games of an ambitious non conference schedule that included trips to Ohio State and Baylor, the Bulls have rattled off five consecutive wins. The road won't get easier for the Bulls, as huge MAC East games with Ohio and Bowling Green remain on the schedule. A week ago Buffalo looked better than they have all season, excelling in every facet of the game. In the win over UMass, Branden Oliver became the school's all time leading rusher. Khalil Mack, who you'll be watching on Sundays very soon, ran back an interception for a touchdown, one of two defensive scores for the Bulls. Buffalo is second in the conference in total defense and has not given up a touchdown since October 5th. Kent State is a program headed in a very opposite direction. Following a win against Western Michigan that seemed to put the Golden Flashes back on track, KSU has lost three straight, to Northern Illinois, Ball State, and non conference foe South Alabama respectively. Quarterback David Fisher, playing for the injured Colin Reardon, was under center for every snap against South Alabama. It is uncertain if Reardon will play against Buffalo. It appears we may see the Dri Archer of old. While there's been flashes of brilliance, the All-American running back exploded against South Alabama for 114 yards rushing, 85 yards receiving, and two touchdowns. Still, we're taking the Bulls this week, and will get back when a line is released.

Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois (-30)

This season has been a nightmare for Eastern Michigan. The Eagles did manage to produce a spirited effort last week against Ohio just days after the murder of junior wide receiver Demarius Reed. The Eagles have lost six consecutive games, and in five of those losses, have given up at least 42 points. While losing their head coach is certainly not on the minds of administration at this point, Ron English will be fired. Unless there's a huge upset on Saturday, Northern Illinois will contribute to the head coaching change. The Huskies have their eyes set on the BCS, and while games with Ball State and a trip to Toledo remain on the schedule, NIU will need to avoid a poor defensive effort against the Eagles on Saturday. The Huskies have demonstrated they can give up points in bunches. Northern Illinois ranks last in the conference in passing defense. To this point Jordan Lynch and company have outscored opponents, but failed to cover relatively lofty spreads. Last week's showing from Jordan Lynch may have cemented him as the number one offensive weapon in the country. There's nothing the Huskies would like more than to have this game decided by halftime. Expect just that. Take the Huskies, lay the points.

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