Glorious #MACtion is back in action on Wednesday night with a tripleheader of games set to kick-off at 7:00 PM ET.
Compared to the Tuesday slate, tonight’s action should be much more competitive as two of the three games carry with them a point spread of less than a touchdown, while all three games have a total hovering around the 60-point mark.
In other words: Bettors, prepare for a fun evening.
To try to ensure it’s also a profitable evening, let’s pop the hood and take a gander at each matchup while finding the Best Bet in each contest.
Northern Illinois at Ball State
Spread: Ball State -14
Total: O/U 60.5
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN News
The 2020 MAC season is an abbreviated one with just six-games on the schedule in total, making this third game one of extreme importance to a Northern Illinois (0-2 MAC) team that has looked nothing short of abysmal out of the gates.
The Huskies have opened the season with losses in their first two games, while their defense has just been completely picked apart in blowout losses to Buffalo and Central Michigan. Defensively they have surrendered nearly 45 points per contest.
Offensively they have also sputtered, ranking at the bottom of college football in rushing yards and yards per attempt, while throwing for just over 170 yards a game. Huskies’ QB Ross Bowers has only completed 55% of his passes and is averaging a paltry 5.7 yards per pass attempt. There is a possibility that NIU makes a quarterback change should he continue to struggle this evening.
Those offense numbers are especially concerning in college football, but particularly in the MAC where offense reigns supreme.
If there is an opportunity for a “get right” game for NIU however, it would be in tonight’s contest against a Ball State (1-1 MAC) team that has a versatile, big-play offense but also struggles mightily on the defensive side of the ball.
The Cardinals have also been lit up on the scoreboard to start the season, surrendering nearly 35 points per contest and 450 yards of offense per game. Ball State has struggled in particular in defending the pass, where they currently have the 103rd ranked passing defense, with only Miami (Ohio) ranking lower than them in conference play.
The defensive woes are not as concerning though when taking a look at the potential of the Cardinals’ offense. Ball State is led offensively by their senior quarterback Drew Plitt (541 yards passing, 2 TD, 2 INT), the leading rusher in the MAC in Caleb Huntley (334 yards, 5 TD, 6.1 ypc), and a stable of wide receivers in Antwan Davis, Justin Hall, and Yo’Heinz Tyler – each of whom has caught at least 11 passes for over 100 yards and a touchdown.
The Ball State offense is probably the last unit a struggling Northern Illinois defense would prefer to face right now, but there will be opportunities for the Huskies to get their offense out of a funk, making this a potentially high-scoring back and forth affair.
Northern Illinois is simply a desperate side looking to stop the bleeding and avoid going 0-3 in a six-game season. I don’t think that will be enough for them to pull off the road upset, but it will be enough for them to cover the spread. I also like the over in this game a great deal.
Prediction: Ball State 41, Northern Illinois 31
Best Bet: Northern Illinois +14; OVER 60.5
Toledo at Eastern Michigan
Spread: Toledo -6.5
Total: O/U 62
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network
Toledo (1-1 MAC) heads to the road tonight following one of the most painful losses in recent memory that saw the Rockets blow a 38-28 lead with 2:54 remaining in the game before giving up two touchdowns in the final minute, the last one coming straight out of a Dan Marino highlight reel on YouTube.
The Rockets will need to shake off their painful defeat in a hurry though, as they are facing a scrappy Eastern Michigan team that is 0-2 to start the season but looked very good in each defeat to Kent State and Ball State.
On paper, this matchup could be a bit of a mismatch between the two sides. Toledo’s offense has been sensational to start the season as they are averaging over 512 yards of offense per game, including 553 yards passing and five touchdowns from starting QB Eli Peters.
Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, boasts one of the worst defensive teams in not only the MAC but in all of college football, as they’ve surrendered over 483 yards per contest. They’ve been especially bad against the run, surrendering over 250 yards per game thus far.
But for all of those defensive struggles, the Eagles have still played teams relatively tight dating back to last season. EMU has gone 4-1 ATS in their last five MAC games and lost 37-34 in overtime to this same Toledo team a season ago.
To go even further, since head coach Chris Creighton took over at EMU, his teams are a very respectable 22-10-1 ATS as an underdog. His teams are not flashy, especially by MAC standards, but they’ve been getting the job done.
This game will likely come down to how well Toledo can bounce back following such a heartbreaking loss to Western Michigan. From a talent perspective, the Rockets have the edge about everywhere you look on the roster, but don’t discount the Eastern Michigan Eagles who have shown a tendency to play teams very tough throughout (12 of their last 17 matchups have been decided by eight points or less).
I like Toledo up to -7 tonight, as I think this is a touchdown game in the making. Should EMU trail early, I would also look at taking them live with (ideally) a double-digit Toledo spread to work with.
Prediction: Toledo 31, Eastern Michigan 24
Best Bet: Toledo -6.5 (would play up to -7)
Western Michigan at Central Michigan
Spread: Central Michigan -1
Total: O/U 58.5
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2
In the game of the evening, a battle of regional proximities in the state of Michigan will commence when Western Michigan takes the quick trip to Mount Pleasant to meet Central Michigan.
Each school finds themselves sitting at 2-0 on the season, with Western Michigan taking the craziest route imaginable to get their second win of the season a week ago over Toledo. Central Michigan has also been a very steady team out of the gates as Jim McElwain’s Chippewas have picked up where they left off a season ago.
Western Michigan comes into tonight’s game with the best offense in the MAC after the first two weeks of the season. They are tops in scoring at just under 50-points per game and have averaged a blistering eight yards per play. The Broncos may have got a modest boost to those numbers by virtue of facing Akron in the season opener, but this is still a group to take seriously.
The Broncos are led by redshirt sophomore signal-caller Kaleb Eleby and Eleby has been nothing short of spectacular so far this season as he’s racked up 546 yards passing and six touchdowns already. Eleby’s favorite target in the passing game so far has been D’Wayne Eskridge, who has 10 grabs for 245 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Tonight, however, Western Michigan faces a significantly better defense than they have seen thus far. McElwain’s Chippewas boast the top defense in the MAC, as they are holding teams to just under five yards per play and just a hair over 18 points per game. They’ve only given up one play longer than 30 yards and have allowed roughly 203 yards passing per game. They are a very solid defense and in a conference like the MAC, this is a major luxury to have as defense is not exactly what the term “MACtion” was born from.
Offensively, CMU is no slouches either, though they’re not quite at the level of WMU. While they’re averaging 35 points per game, they’ve been fairly conservative as a group. McElwain prefers for his teams to be balanced, and that has been apparent with the Chips averaging a near 50/50 split in rushing offense and passing offense.
While they will be less likely to sling the ball around as WMU would, they’re still efficient enough throwing the ball that you have to account for it. Nonetheless, the Chippewas ideal offensive strategy tonight would be to pound the rock with rushers Kobe Lewis and Lew Nichols III.
The team that can best play to their strengths will be the likely victor in this toss-up matchup. This has all the makings of another classic edition of ‘Midweek MACtion’, but I will side with the home side fielding the better defense tonight and take the Chippewas to win.
Prediction: Central Michigan 30, Western Michigan 28
Best Bet: Central Michigan -1