The MAC has begun their slate of late-season, mid-week games and the Wednesday night (8:00pm ET) action for week 11 of the 2014 season features the Northern Illinois Huskies (6-2) traveling to Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, IN to take on the host Ball St. Cardinals (3-5) in the annual battle for the “Bronze Stalk”, in honor of the two schools respective locations. NIU did not play last weekend, but has won their last two games in a row over Miami of Ohio (51-41) and Eastern Michigan (28-17). The Huskies started off hot winning their first 3 games of the year before a blowout 52-14 loss at Arkansas in week 4. Their other loss came at home against Central Michigan by a count of 34-17 in week 7. The Cardinals have also won two in a row following a dreadful 1-5 start to their season that saw them lose 5 games in a row following their 30-10 win over Colgate in week 1. They have dropped MAC contests against Western Michigan (42-38) and Toledo (34-23), but their last two wins have come at Central Michigan (32-29) and at home over Akron (35-21) in their last action on October 25th.
The Huskies rank 51st among FBS teams in scoring offense with 31.6 points per game and 31st in total offense with 464.9 yards per game. NIU has lost just 3 fumbles and thrown only 2 interceptions, to lead all FBS teams with the fewest turnovers. The Huskies have also allowed the fewest sacks in the MAC and 3rd fewest in FBS with 5 allowed this season. Quarterback Drew Hare is a dual-threat, running for 166 yards and a TD against Eastern Michigan, and 180 yards against Miami (OH.). Defensively NIU has allowed 26.3 PPG to rank 64th nationally in scoring defense and 71st in total defense with 402.6 YPG allowed.
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Ball St. ranks 80th among FBS teams in scoring offense with 26.9 PPG and 98th in total offense with 364.1 YPG. The Cardinals rank 69th nationally in points allowed with 26.6 per game and 73rd in total defense with 404.4 YPG allowed.
Northern Illinois vs. Ball St. Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Northern Illinois Huskies -3
@Ball St. Cardinals +3
Over 59.5 (-110)
Under 59.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from BetOnline.ag
Northern Illinois vs. Ball St. Pick:
The Huskies won last season’s meeting in DeKalb 48-27 behind 345 yards passing and 123 yards rushing from their Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch. NIU has won the last 5 meetings straight up between the two teams, and 6 of the last 7 played in Muncie. Ball State holds a 20-18-2 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools, but NIU has an 11-9-2 record in the 22 games played in Muncie. NIU is undefeated in their last 30 games when logging over 45 rushing attempts, and has won 39 of their last 40 when allowing 24 points or fewer.
The Huskies have has become bowl-eligible for the 7th year in a row which is a record for a MAC team, and their 52 wins since the start of the 2010 season ranks tied for 3rd among all FBS teams behind only Oregon, Alabama and Florida St. That is pretty elite company for any team in the recent college football landscape. The Huskies had a 17-game road winning streak stopped at Arkansas, and own road wins over Northwestern and Iowa among others during that streak. They will not be intimidated by a road game against the Cardinals, who have rebounded from a terrible stretch but are not as strong as they were last season. Take the Huskies on the road here.
**When I first posted this pick I had Northern Illinois +3 because of a line error on my end, but I still like the Huskies -3 (or 3.5 if that’s all you can get).