Wednesday night will be a big night for the Mid-American Conference as the Western Michigan Broncos travel to Illinois to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies. These two teams are bowl-eligible already, but they both are looking to win the MAC West division and get into the MAC Title game. For either team to have a chance of catching Toledo at the top of their division, they need to win this game. Kickoff inside Huskie Stadium is at 7 PM ET and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Over their last 10 head-to-head meetings, Northern Illinois has posted a 7-3 record against Western Michigan. NIU has owned this series winning 7 out of the last 8 games. They’ve also won the last 4 games at home between these two teams.
Western Michigan (6-4, 4-2 MAC) is coming off a 48-20 win at home over Kent. This was a bounce back game for the Broncos as they surprisingly lost two weeks ago to Central Michigan by a touchdown. For the Broncos to win their division and go to the MAC Title game, they will need to beat Northern Illinois this week and defeat Toledo next week. Their post-season opportunities all come down to these two games and a little bit of luck.
The Northern Illinois Huskies (7-3, 5-1 MAC) are coming off a huge win over Ball State 63-17. They also bounced back after losing two weeks ago to Toledo. That loss gave Toledo the edge in the MAC West for now. If NIU can win this week and against CMU in two weeks, coupled with a Toledo loss to WMU next week, then the Huskies can win the division and go to the MAC Title game.
The spread currently sits at -10 for Northern Illinois after opening at -8 points.
These next two weeks are going to be exciting times for the MAC. And all of this MACtion begins on Wednesday night between the Huskies and the Broncos. WMU got the win last year after snapping a 7 game losing streak to the Huskies. But, they do not have the same team as last year and it’s showing up this season as they’ve already lost 4 games.
Ultimately, this game will come down to one thing: WMU’s run offense versus the Huskies’ rush defense.
WMU is the top rushing team in the MAC and top 15 in the country at 249.2 ypg. Franklin leads the Broncos with 1,061 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. When they get this run game going, they are very hard to beat. They don’t have quarterback Jon Wassink to help manage this offense as he’s out with a broken collar bone. So, Goddard will get another start and he will have a hard time against the NIU defense. Which makes it even more important for the Broncos to run the ball this week.
NIU’s rush defense is the best in the MAC and Top 10 in the country at 109.8 ypg. Additionally, this is a Top 20 defense in scoring as they only allow 18.8 ppg. In MAC play, they are only allowing 17.7 ppg. Because of their defense, NIU has been able to overcome shoddy quarterback play. They also have a good running game as they average 186.2 yards per game.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, they have the worst defense for a MAC team with a winning conference record. They allow 27.6 ppg on the season and 26.1 ppg in MAC play. They do have 22 turnovers on the season, but NIU has 19, so this is not enough of a difference for WMU to have an advantage.
The Western Michigan Broncos are 17-7-1 ATS in their last 25 road games, 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games as an Underdog, and 9-5 ATS in their last 14 games against a team with a winning record. The Northern Illinois Huskies are 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games where they are a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points, 2-4 ATS in their last 6 MAC games, 8-14-1 ATS in their last 23 home games, and 1-7 ATS in their last 8 home games versus as team with a winning record on the road.
With a true freshman going against the conference’s best defense, you have to like NIU in this one. But, WMU’s run game will keep this game close and within double digits. NIU will pull away late, but not by more than the spread. Look for NIU’s defense to lead the Huskies to victory in this one by a score of 28-20.