The crowd that does show up on Friday night at Ford Field could be pro-Bowling Green as the Falcons make the short trip up Interstate 75 into downtown Detroit for the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. Their opponent will be the Northern Illinois Huskies, who won the highly competitive MAC West Division Title by besting Western Michigan in their final game. The winner of this game will head to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile on January 4.
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois College Football Preview
Date/Time: Friday December 5, 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Ford Field (Detroit)
College Football Betting Odds from WagerWeb
College Football Betting Favorite: Northern Illinois -6.5
Dino Babers is in the conference championship game in his first season at Bowling Green. The former Eastern Illinois head coach led his Falcons to a 7-5 record with a 4-7-1 mark against the number. Bowling Green rolled over Northern Illinois 47-27 last season before head coach Dave Clawson went to Wake Forest. Rod Carey has quietly built on the program’s success with a 22-4 straight up record and a 14-12 ATS mark in his two seasons. NIU is in the MAC Championship Game for the fifth straight season. They are 2-2 in the last four championship games.
Bowling Green Falcons:
Dino Babers has not been able to pass the ball around the field like he had hoped after returning starter at quarterback Matt Johnson was injured in the team’s season-opening loss to Western Kentucky. James Knapke has filled in admirably, but his performance has left something to be desired. Through 12 games, Knapke has just 12 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions and a 57 percent completion rate. Travis Greene and Fred Coppet have each run for 5.7 yards per carry as Babers and his staff have adjusted nicely on the fly. The defense has regressed in a big way without Clawson and former defensive coordinator Mike Elko. The Falcons have allowed 32.5 points per game this season. If you added their average points per game allowed over the last two seasons, it would equal 32.7. Bowling Green has not beaten a team with a winning record this season and they are 0-4 against those opponents.
Northern Illinois Huskies:
The Huskies have essentially played three straight playoff games. They beat Toledo, Ohio, and then went to Western Michigan and won to get a berth in the MAC Title Game. They shared the regular season title with Toledo based on conference record, but their head-to-head win at home sent them to Detroit. Drew Hare had a tough game his last time out, but the Huskies quarterback has a 15/1 TD/INT ratio with nearly 2,700 yards of total offense. Cameron Stingily is just 11 rushing yards behind Hare for the team lead despite missing the first game of the season with an injury. The Huskies roll into this game with six straight wins and the defense has allowed an average of 23 points. In the MAC, that’s good enough to win most nights. The Huskies offense gets all of the buzz and headlines, but the defense has been very strong over the last seven seasons.
Free Pick: Northern Illinois
Bowling Green was the only team in the MAC East Division with a winning conference record and one of just two teams that are bowl eligible. They haven’t beaten a team with a winning record and NIU has a strong revenge angle after getting blown out in this game last season. This is a tough number to cover with so much on the line for both teams and a rather inexperienced QB in Hare, but the Huskies should match up well with Bowling Green.