The Streak is over.
By the time Bowling Green had dispatched Buffalo last Friday our fate was sealed. While I'm fighting the urge to claim Buffalo tanked that game in an attempt to bypass a trip to Detroit and Mobile in favor of a potential invitation to sunny San Diego, California for the Poinsettia Bowl, the reality is last week was a loser.
Five games, 2 correct, 3 incorrect, and we limp into Championship Week licking our wounds. The Streak halted at 10 consecutive winning weeks, and after going 2-3 we've run 2013 to 39 winners versus 31 losers. My only solace is that there must exist a higher power who refuses to allow someone to possess a degree from Ball State University, be this good looking, and pick Mid-American Conference football against the spread with such alarming efficiency.
We must regroup though, because I know that rather than pull an extra shift at work, you come to Hustle Belt to have your money make money. With Christmas fast approaching, and gifts to be purchased, it is not the time for fiscal responsibility. It is time to wager irresponsible amounts of money on MAC football.
It's at this point that I remind you, just like a college football season derailed by athletes trading team memorabilia for tattoos with no possibility of going to a bowl game, Spread Offense is for entertainment purposes only. If you are however someone entertained by making money, please continue reading. Your Championship Week MAC picks:
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois Over/Under: 57.5
Statistically it shapes up to be a fantastic matchup for MAC fans. Bowling Green enters Friday's conference championship game fielding the league's top defense, allowing just 296 yards a game and a scant 13.8 points per contest. To put this into context, the MAC's second leading defense, the Buffalo Bulls, yielded 376 yards and 22 points per game. The MAC's top ranked defense is also 7th in the nation. In four November games the Falcons allowed just 17 points combined. This is a true defensive unit. While Buffalo touts certain NFLer Khalil Mack, Bowling Green plays team defense, and the results have been staggering. For the 2013 season no Falcons rank in the MAC top ten for tackles, sacks, tackles for a loss, interceptions, or forced fumbles. Nevertheless, since a loss to Toledo on October 26th, the Bowling Green defense has stymied all opponents with remarkable efficiency.
The Falcons haven't played an offense like this though. Northern Illinois, potential back to back BCS buster, and Heisman hopeful All-Everything quarterback Jordan Lynch are the MAC's top offense. The Huskies score north of 42 points a game and rack up over 540 yards of total offense. Of those 542 yards, 318 are on the ground. The nation's 4th ranked rushing offense is led by Lynch, who averages 146 yards, and set the NCAA record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback with 316 on October 19th. He then broke his own record with 321 yards on November 26th. The prolific offense runs through Lynch, but he has plenty of weapons. Cameron Stingily rushes for over 90 yards a game and Tommylee Lewis is second in the conference with 7.4 catches per contest. Bowling Green's passing defense should be enough to thwart the Huskies aerial attack. What happens when Lynch runs the ball though, may be a different story.
This game has all the makings of an instant classic. The spread, which we will cover shortly, is 3. Now assuming the game hits close on that number, we're looking at a 31-28 or 30-27 game on Friday. Northern completely obliterates grossly inferior opponents. The Huskies hung 59 on Eastern Michigan, 63 on Massachusetts. Against stiffer competition however, the points NIU scores becomes more realistic. Last week they scored 33 against Western Michigan, the week before 35 against Toledo. This is primarily a function of the offense relying heavily on the legs of Jordan Lynch. While they've demonstrated they are capable of this in the past, NIU would not be defined as a "quick strike" offense. They eat up 6, 8, 10 yards at a time on bruising runs by Lynch, and truthfully do not possess enough offensive firepower to beat BGSU through the air. This will be one for the ages, but we will see fairly realistic numbers. Take the UNDER at 57.5 on Friday.
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois (-3)
Hard to say Bowling Green is the second best team in the MAC. Certainly they are the best team in the MAC East, as the Falcons did not play a divisional game closer than 17 points. The top MAC West competition BGSU encountered this season was Toledo, a very talented squad lost behind the pub of NIU and Ball State in the division, who beat the Falcons 28-25 on October 26th. This Falcon team nearly knocked off SEC opponent Mississippi State, falling by a point on October 12th. Matt Johnson and Travis Greene are the future for a program that will likely enter 2014 as the favorites to win the MAC. Greene is fourth in the conference in rushing, Johnson second in passing yards behind Ball State's Keith Wenning. Northern's defense isn't great, they're about middle of the pack, but don't expect BGSU to put up numbers in the 40's and 50's that were commonplace in November.
This is the best punch NIU is going to get. Ball State and Toledo were tough games for the Huskies, and they inexplicably played a tight one at home against Akron on October 12th. Northern wins and they're a likely BCS team. Lose, and they get to return to Detroit 20 days later for the Little Caeser's Pizza Bowl. One could argue that win or lose, Bowling Green's bowl invitation doesn't change. Lose, and there's a chance they still get an invite to the LCPB in Detroit. Win and that's more likely. More simply put, they Huskies are playing for a little bit more. Now that's not to say BGSU isn't a fantastic team, and that they won't be playing with more enthusiasm on Friday than they've had all season. The bottom line is I've seen Jordan Lynch do things this season that cannot be done on a football field. That NIU is undefeated and this game is being played on a neutral field yet the spread is just 3 should show you how much Vegas respects the Falcons. Friday night in Detroit, take the Huskies and lay the 3.
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