Pick – Analysis
For the third straight year, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois will face off in the MAC championship Game. After two straight lopsided title Games, Bowling Green is currently an -11.5 point favorite (at 5 Dimes Sportsbook) at Ford Field, the biggest spread between these teams since 1998.
With a 9-3 overall record and the only MAC team with one loss in Conference play, Bowling Green is a huge favorite in this Game led by senior quarterback Matt Johnson. The Falcons have two wins over Big Ten competition, while carving through most Conference competition, scoring 44 points per Game.
As neither team boasts a great defense, there should be plenty of points in this one. Northern Illinois got a slow start to the season with losses at Ohio State (20-13), Boston College (17-14) and Central Michigan (29-19), but went on to win six straight after those losses. This isn’t the same high-flying team as previous versions and are coming off a home loss to Ohio (26-21) to close the season, but still won the MAC West due to a head-to-head win.
In similar matchups, there’s not much to go off for these teams as Bowling Green destroyed Ohio, but lost to Toledo, whereas NIU did the opposite.
The main issue for the Huskies will be stopping Matt Johnson and company, which is something no one in the Conference has done. Johnson has 45 total touchdowns on the year with just six interceptions, while completing 68.9% of his passes. His weapons are endless in the passing Game and running back Travis Greene (1,036 yards, 12 TDs) has benefitted plenty from teams trying to stop Johnson in the passing Game. This offense is filled with experience and that could come through in this Game after the Falcons got beat 51-17 in last year’s MAC title without Johnson at QB.
The Huskies will have a chance, though, mostly because Bowling Green hasn’t stopped any decent offense this year. Unfortunately for Northern Illinois, quarterback Drew Hare tore his Achilles a few weeks ago and won’t be playing. That injury has obviously hurt them with freshman Ryan Graham stepping in as the starting quarterback. It doesn’t help that he was hurt in NIU’s last Game and true freshman Tommy Fielder was forced to step in against Ohio, and part of the reason they lost that Game.
The Huskies will try and pound starting running back Joel Bouagnon (1,212 yards, 18 TDs) as much as possible with a question at quarterback, but BGSU will likely focus on stopping that much like Ohio did. If Northern Illinois can’t keep up on the scoreboard early in the Game, that could mean trouble as Matt Johnson and the Falcons pile on points.
With questions at quarterback, even against a bad defense, Northern Illinois could be in trouble early and the Scorecould end up opposite of what it finished last year.
The Huskies are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven Games overall, while the over has hit seven straight times for the Falcons in December Games.
Our Pick – Bowling Green -11.5