They say all good things must come to end but when it comes to midweek MACtion I wholeheartedly disagree with that. Tonight will be the last time we get MAC games during the week for the season so it’s time to cherish it and preview tonight’s two games along with giving out a pick for each.
Both Ball State and Miami Ohio are one win away from clinching bowl eligibility so the loser of tonight’s game will have played their last game of the season. Last week Ball State lost and Miami Ohio won but injury concerns are looming for each side. Ball State is currently 5-6 on the season and it’s unclear if the focal point of their offense, Carson Steele will be able to play tonight with a concussion.
If Steele can’t play the entire season will be riding on quarterback John Paddock and whether or not he can protect the ball tonight. Paddock has thrown 18 touchdowns along with 12 interceptions so he’ll need to really rely on his tight-end duo of Tanner Koziol and Brady Hunt.
The Miami Ohio defense is only allowing 23.9 points per game but has had more success stopping the run this season than the pass, so if Steele can’t go then the Cardinals should be able to move the ball through the air.
Injury-wise for the Redhawks it is still unclear if quarterback Brett Gabbert will be available after suffering an ankle injury two weeks ago. Back-up quarterback Aveon Smith played well in last week's win and has the ability to use his feet and add another layer to the offense.
No matter who is at quarterback, the Redhawks will rely on primary wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer to expose this Ball State defense allowing an average of 428.9 yards a game.
Miami Ohio opened as -3 point favorites and that number hasn’t moved at all yet. The injury news on both sides will ultimately affect where this number closes at but no matter what my play for this game is Miami Ohio -3.
Even if Carson Steele is ready to play tonight I think this Redhawks offense can slow him down and their front seven can wreak havoc on the Ball State o-line making it an uncomfortable game for Paddock as well.
I am comfortable riding with Miami Ohio no matter who is quarterback, either QB can attack the Ball State defense in a different way. If Smith has to play again he should be able to get out of the pocket and make plays when he needs to, and if Gabbert plays then the Redhawks should be able to expose this Ball State secondary. I’d advise waiting to bet the point total though until the injury news is announced.
The other game of the night features two teams who are already bowl-eligible but who are both trying to clinch the MAC East Divison. If Ohio wins tonight’s game they will have booked a ticket to the MAC championship game but if Bowling Green wins then we’ll have to wait and see the outcome of the Buffalo game to see who will represent the MAC East.
Ohio lost their star quarterback Kurtis Rourke to injury in last week's game and it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to play tonight. If he can’t play and backup CJ Harris is under center then this game becomes a lot more even. Harris has struggled in the limited action he has gotten this season so it’ll be up to running back Sieh Bangura to shoulder the load on offense for the Bobcats.
Bowling Green has not looked good on defense the last two weeks so Bangura can still set his team up to win even if Rourke can’t play. Offensively Bowling Green and quarterback Matt McDonald looked impressive in last week's win so we’ll see if he can continue that play into this week against an Ohio defense allowing an average of 293.2 passing yards a game.
Odieu Hiliare was unstoppable last week and has been one of the best underrated deep threats in the entire country this season. Despite their record, the Bobcats' defense has relied on the offense to carry them at times this season so look for Hiliare to have a big game tonight.
Similar to the first game the line has stayed put where it opened, so Ohio opened at and is currently sitting as -7 point favorites. My play for this game though is going to be rolling with the underdog and taking Bowling Green +7.
Even if Rourke is able to play tonight I doubt he is 100% and at the top of his game so I think the Falcons can hang in this game no matter what. Defensively the Bobcats have not shown the ability to stop the passing game and with the momentum, Matt McDonald enters this week with he should be able to throw the ball all over the field.
A touchdown difference is a big margin for a possible backup quarterback and lackluster defense to cover, especially when the other team has a lot to play for. As for the point total, I would advise again to either wait for the injury news to come out or live bet on it depending on how Ohio comes out of the gate.