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Northern Illinois vs. Central Michigan MAC Football Pick

10/1/11

Not exactly a marquee match up here but one that grabs our attention nonetheless as Northern Illinois heads into Central Michigan as -8.5 point road favorites in their MAC opener, down from an opening number of -10 despite 85% of the bets coming in being on Northern Illinois. Generally a red flag and an indication of sharp action, in this case, on Central Michigan.

Northern Illinois was 11-2 last year behind a powerhouse offense that averaged 38 points per game and put up 71 points on Eastern Michigan, 65 on Toledo, 59 on Ball State, and so on. The defense held up their end of the bargain as well, giving up 18 points per game.

Coming into this season, there looked to be some concerns. Specifically, a defense that was depleted of starters and a new coaching staff, which can always lead to growing pains. But the offense was still intact with 8 returning starters including a star in the making at QB, Chandler Harnish.

Fast forward to the present, and it shouldn't be a surprise that the Northern Illinois offense is #32 overall in the nation, while the defense appears to be struggling. The offense put up 49, 42 and 47 points against Army, Kansas and Cal Poly while only being shut out against the mighty Wisconsin Badgers, a 49-7 loss.

Central Michigan is a team that between 2006 and 2009 won 8, 10 and 12 games per year and a few MAC titles. They lost to Northern Illinois last year but beat them the 3 previous years with only one of those being close. Central Michigan has been good, and recently, so we can't ignore that and perhaps that's where the early line move in their favor comes from.

But we also can't ignore that they were 3-9 a year ago and by the looks of things so far in 2001, they continue to be a mess. If we take into account that both defenses are poor, this comes down to a match up between the nations #32 ranked offense vs. the nations #114 ranked offense. There's only 120 teams folks. Central Michigan is averaging 86 yards per game on the ground while Northern Illinois is averaging 214.

There looks to be a huge mismatch at QB with Chandler Harnish over whoever starts for Central Michigan. Starter Ryan Radcliff was benched last week at Michigan State but his back up was so bad Radcliff had to come back into the game!

Keep this in mind about the defense...stats can be misleading. The 47-30 score against Cal Poly doesn't look good on paper. But Northern Illinois led 27-0 in the first half and pretty much packed it in and coasted from that point forward. Here's a quote from NI Middle Linebacker Pat Schiller - “The past two games – like everybody said – put a bad taste in our mouths,” senior middle linebacker Pat Schiller said. “I know what our defense is capable of doing, and what we’ve shown wasn’t that. I think that it lit a fire throughout the whole defense. I’m ready to show everybody what we can do.”

If the defense truly is capable of doing something, this would appear to be the perfect spot to do it, against a Central Michigan offense the seems as though it can't get out of it's own way.

If the squares are on Northern Illinois and the sharps are on Central Michigan, sign us up with the squares on this one. We just can't see this one going any other way. Northern Illinois -8.5

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