One of the best things about the MAC conference is the proximity of the schools, which allows for great matchups with deep history to them. One of three games on the MACtion slate tonight features one of those showdowns, with Western Michigan set to host Central Michigan. Both teams opened week one of MACtion with a win and cover, but tonight, I’ve got my sites set on the Chips to cover as underdogs in consecutive weeks.
In order to make the MAC Championship game, Central Michigan would need to run the table for the rest of the season and hope for a big collapse from Toledo. While the odds don’t look to be in their favor for that to happen, at the very least, the Chips can become bowl-eligible tonight with a win.
The Chips' run-heavy offense has produced inconsistent results all season, but last week, it was firing on all cylinders, resulting in 331 rushing yards on 47 attempts. Quarterback Jase Bauer much prefers to use his legs to move the ball downfield, and while it did work last week, CMU is still 95th in the country in offensive success rate. The duo of Marion Lukes and Bauer can be challenging for defenses to stop, but if they match up with a strong run defense, the offense has the tendency to sputter out.
Luckily for the Chips, their opponent tonight has not been known for their defense this season. Western Michigan has allowed 20 or more points to every FBS opponent they’ve played this season, and on average, they are allowing 409.5 total yards per game. Those numbers have the Broncos ranked 121st in defensive EPA and give a good explanation as to why they picked up just their third win of the season in week nine.
Offensively, the Broncos have seemed to finally settle on a quarterback after weeks of rotating, as Hayden Wolff has been under center the past four weeks. The transfer QB has a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in that span, but much like the Chips, the Broncos prefer to keep the ball on the ground. Thanks to running back Jalen Buckley, the Broncos rank 53rd in EPA per rush play, while their EPA on pass plays is ranked 107th.
After winning outright as underdogs last week, Central Michigan comes into this week as (+3.5) point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them for my play. The Chips have the most offensive success when they play a bad run defense, which will be the case tonight with Western Michigan. The Broncos are 112th in EPA per rush play on defense and allow an average of 4.4 yards per carry, ranking them 85th in that category.
Opponents have converted 43.9% of their third downs on the Broncos' defense, and if it came down to it, Jase Bauer could also find success through the air if he needed to. Western Michigan is 105th in EPA per pass plays on defense, so no matter how you look at it, CMU should be able to put points on the board.
If CMU can find success offensively, I don’t have a lot of faith in the Broncos' offense to outpace them. Western Michigan is 120th in offensive success rate, and while they may also be able to run the ball well tonight, CMU has been a tremendous bend-and-break type of defense. The Chips are 45th in 3rd/4th down success rate, while the Broncos are 109th in third down conversion percentage. With an inability to finish drives, I think WMU struggles to pull away.
Central Michigan (+3.5) on Caesars Sportsbook