Many people will be celebrating a holiday today in, Halloween, but for me, I’ll be celebrating a different holiday. That holiday is MACtion, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is midweek college football that gives you a reason to get out of bed on a Tuesday in November.
Every year, when the weather changes, MAC teams start to play on weeknights, and it starts this season with Northern Illinois headed on the road to Central Michigan. The Huskies enter tonight on a three-game win streak, and I’ll break down why I think they’ll continue their streak and cover tonight.
Coming off a week eight road loss, the Chippewas will return home tonight where they have yet to lose a game. However, not only have they yet to cover a home game, but tonight, they will face their toughest test at home this season. CMU might be 2-2 in conference play, but their week eight loss came at the hands of Ball State, who currently sit at the bottom of the MAC West standings.
Ball State is ranked 103rd in the country in points allowed per game, yet Central Michigan only managed to produce 17 points in the loss, as their offense continues to have a negative regression. Over their last three games, the Chippewas are averaging just 15.6 points per game, which has them entering this week ranked 97th in offensive success rate.
Starting quarterback Jase Bauer has simply not produced since the start of conference play. In four MAC games, Bauer has a 4:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and while he can be dangerous with his legs, he has only rushed for over 50 yards in one of their last four games. Getting the offense going tonight could be difficult for Bauer since defense has been the strength of Northern Illinois as of late.
Across their recent three-game win streak, NIU has not allowed more than 14 points in a game, which has helped them rank 16th in defensive success rate on pass plays. While their defense has helped them go 3-1 in conference play, the Huskies' offense has been trending in a better direction since their early season losing streak.
Quarterback Rocky Lombardi has been efficient since MAC play began, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions. Lombardi does not need to play out of his mind for the Huskies to win, as their run game behind Antario Brown is ranked 59th in EPA per rush play.
Northern Illinois is currently listed as (-5.5) point favorites, and I’ll be backing them as my first MACtion play of the year. As I mentioned earlier, CMU has yet to cover a home game this season, and now they host a team that has won three straight games and has been dominant on the defensive side of the ball.
Central Michigan has seemingly lost all of their offensive momentum over the past few weeks, and their offensive EPA that ranks 102nd in the country likely won’t be enough to challenge the NIU defense. Northern Illinois is 15th in opponent completion percentage and 4th in passing yards allowed per game, so if Central Michigan needs to rely entirely on their running game, I don’t think they can score enough points to stay in the game.
The Chippewas' defense has simply not been good enough to keep them in a game, while their offense is trying to find success strictly on the ground. Central Michigan is ranked 109th and 114th in defensive success rate and EPA on rush plays this season, which plays right into the strengths of the NIU offense, as they enter tonight averaging 4.8 yards per carry, which is good for 29th in the country. No matter which way you look at this game, it seems as if the Huskies have the advantage.
Northern Illinois Huskies (-5.5)