Week 9 MAC Previews

Northern Illinois (5-2) at Eastern Michigan (2-5) Oct. 25, 1:00, ESPN3 

Here’s The Deal: Northern Illinois got past its stunning home loss to Central Michigan to get the offense going in a shootout win over Miami University, but now it has to go on the road for four of its last five games. The running offense might not be Jordan Lynch-good, but it got rolling last week against the RedHawks and now needs to control the game from the start against an Eastern Michigan program that’s improving, but needs to come up with its best performance in years to have any hope of pulling off the win. 

The Eagles shocked Buffalo a few weeks ago, but came back with a clunker of a blowout loss to UMass and its high-powered offense. Can the linebacking corps rise up and keep the NIU ground attack in check? Can the offense score more than 14 points, something it’s done only one time against FBS teams this year? 

What’s Going To Happen: Eastern Michigan is 2-0 at home and 0-5 on the road, but will owning Ypsilanti be enough of an advantage? Very, very flaky, NIU isn’t above a down performance – the 17-14 win over a bad Kent State team – but it’ll keep control of the game by converting around 60% of its third down chances. 

Prediction: Northern Illinois 45 … Eastern Michigan 20 
Line: Northern Illinois -20.5 o/u: 61
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 1.5 

Ohio (4-4) at Western Michigan (4-3) Oct. 25, 2:00, ESPN3 

Here’s The Deal: Northern Illinois, Toledo and Bowling Green might be the main players in the MAC title race, but these two have crept into the mix. Western Michigan is night-and-day better than 2013 with a more mature team and a far more effective and efficient offense. The lone loss in MAC play came in overtime to Toledo, but with road wins over Ball State and Bowling Green, the Broncos got right into the thick of things. With Miami University and Eastern Michigan up next, a win over Ohio could make a five-game winning streak possible before going to Central Michigan. 

Ohio hasn’t been fun and exciting, struggling to put points on the board, but with a win over a good Akron team, it steered into the two-game losing skid. With only four games left, the Bobcats can’t afford a road loss with Buffalo, NIU and Miami University to close – they have to win out, and they have to do it with defense. 

What’s Going To Happen: With a rough quarterback situation, the Ohio offense won’t be able to keep up the pace. The only time the Bobcats were able to do much offensively was against Idaho and Eastern Illinois, but the passing game is inefficient and there isn’t enough of a ground game. The WMU passing game should roll against the shaky Ohio secondary. 

Prediction: Western Michigan 30 … Ohio 20 
Line: Western Michigan -10.5 o/u: 51 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 2 

Massachusetts (2-6) at Toledo (4-3) Oct. 25, 2:00, ESPN3 

Here’s The Deal: Break up the Minutemen. After an awful 2013, and a frustrating 2014 with four of the six losses, really, really close, they rocked against Kent State and Eastern Michigan with two straight blowout wins. With a fun passing game that’s averaging 317 yards, and a decent that showed it could stop the lousy teams, this is quickly becoming the team no one wants to play. 

Toledo lost a fight to Iowa State a few weeks ago, but it’s 3-0 in MAC play – needing overtime to get by Western Michigan – and it needs this win with three of the last four games on the road. The Rocket offense has been tremendous, and the run defense okay, but it’s been involved in several wars. Kent State and Eastern Michigan shouldn’t be a problem – even on the road – and it’ll come down to showdowns against Northern Illinois and Bowling Green. But there’s no overlooking UMass. 

What’s Going To Happen: No pressure, but this should be among the most fun games of the weekend. Toledo can’t stop anyone’s passing game, and UMass can bomb. UMass can’t stop the run, and Toledo can roll. The potential is there for a back-and-forth shootout with lots of big plays, but Toledo’s run defense will make the Minutemen a bit too one dimensional. 

Prediction: Toledo 45 … Massachusetts 34 
Line: Toledo -18 o/u: 70.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 2.5 

Akron (4-3) at Ball State (2-5) Oct. 25, 2:00, ESPN3 

Here’s The Deal: Just when it seemed like Akron was about to make a big push, it couldn’t get by Ohio in a key 23-20 loss last week. The passing game keeps on working, and the defense is among the best in the MAC, but it can’t afford another loss with Bowling Green coming up next. However, if the Zips win out, they’re going to be playing for the MAC title as the East champion – they’re good enough to rebound and do it. 

Ball State stopped its rough five-game slide with a huge and shocking 32-29 win at Central Michigan to throw the MAC West race into a tizzy. It’s not like the Cardinals have been bad – three of the five losses have been close and the other two defeats were decent battles, and now it’s time to go on a run with three of the next four games at home. However, there’s still NIU and Bowling Green to deal with. 

What’s Going To Happen: The Ball State pass defense is good enough keep the Akron passing game from going off. Can the Cardinals keep up the pace offensively? Neither team makes a slew of big mistakes and both are great in turnover margin, but the big difference will be opportunities. Akron is one of the worst teams in the country in the red zone, and Ball State is 12th in the nation in red zone defense. 
Prediction: Ball State 31 … Akron 27 
Line: Akron -1.5 o/u: 49.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 2 

Kent State (1-6) at Miami University (1-7) Oct. 25, 2:30, ESPN3 

Here’s The Deal: Kent State has struggled on its way to a one-win season, while Miami University has been fun and exciting on the way to a one-win season. The RedHawks pushed Northern Illinois hard in a 51-41 loss – the defense is struggling. Andrew Hendrix and the O are putting up big numbers, and the team is far more entertaining than it’s been over the past few seasons, but the wins aren’t coming. This has to be a victory. Starting a run of three home games in the final four, there’s a chance to close out the year with a little bit of noise. 

Kent State shocked Army last week with a surprising 39-17 blowout, but was that an aberration or was it the start of a change? The Golden Flashes hadn’t scored more than 17 all year, and all of a sudden things started to work a bit. It’s not an easy finishing kick, and now it’s about trying to build on the one win and improving going into the offseason. The Miami defense is a chance to crank things up – if Kent State can. 

What’s Going To Happen: The RedHawk defense makes everyone look good, but Kent State won’t be able to keep up with the MU attack that will be a little more balanced than normal. Teams usually run the ball on KSU, but now the secondary will get a workout. 
Prediction: Miami University 34 … Kent State 27 
Line: Miami -6.5 o/u: 52.5
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 1.5 

Central Michigan (4-4) at Buffalo (3-4) Oct. 25, 3:30, ESPN3 

Here’s The Deal: Just when it seemed like Central Michigan was going to blow up – after beating Ohio and NIU easily – the air went out of the balloon with a stunning home loss to a struggling Ball State. There’s still time to turn things back around with a relatively easy finishing kick, getting Eastern Michigan and Miami University next, but first the Chippewas have to crank the offense back up and get by a Buffalo team in transition. 

Under interim head coach Alex Wood, Buffalo will try to reload its season after former head man Jeff Quinn lost by double-digits to Eastern Michigan – you don’t lost by double-digits to Eastern Michigan. The UB pass defense has been a problem, but the offense has been entertaining and effective. Even after the rough first weeks, the Bulls can fight for a winning season if they can get by with a win this week. 

What’s Going To Happen: With star RB Thomas Rawls back in the mix after his off-the-field problems have been settled, the CMU running game should continue to roll. Can the defense hold up? CMU’s pass defense has been among the MAC’s best and should do just enough to allow the offense to be balanced and crank through the UB D. 

Prediction: Central Michigan 31 … Buffalo 24 
Line: Central Michigan -5.5 o/u: 57 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 2