The Ball State Cardinals can punch their ticket to the MAC Championship game when they square off with the No. 20 Northern Illinois Huskies at Huskie Stadium tonight. The game has a start time of 8:00 pm (Eastern) and be will televised on ESPN 2. Vegas odds have Northern Illinois listed as 7 point favorites, while the total sits at 72.
Analysis: The Cardinals improved to 9-1 overall and 6-0 in league action last Wednesday with a 44-24 rout of Central Michigan. That was their 7th win in a row, while their lone loss of the year was back on Sept 14th, at North Texas. The Cardinals rank No. 1 in the MAC and 16th in the country in passing offense with 323 ypg and are also second in the conference and 14th nationally in scoring offense at 39.9 ppg. QB Keith Wenning has been the leader of the attack and is the only FBS signal caller with at least 300 passing yards in eight games this year. His favorite target has been Willie Snead, who is the MAC's leading receiver across the board this season with 74 catches, 1175 yards and 12 touchdowns through 10 games. Ball State's defense has held all but one opponent under 30 points this season and is in the middle of the pack in the conference with 419.9 yards allowed per game.
Northern Illinois comes in with a perfect 9-0 record, including a 5-0 mark versus conference foes. The Huskies are currently on the longest active conference winning streak in the nation having defeated their last 22 MAC opponents, plus they have also won 22 straight games at home. Holding NIU under 30 points will nbe hard for Ball State, thanks to the presence of QB Jordan Lynch, who has accounted for 335.7 ypg of total offense. Lynch is leading the Huskies and the MAC on the ground with 1,150 yards on 173 carries. Tommylee Lewis (62 rec., 552 yards, three TDs) and Da'Ron Brown (33 rec, 480 yards, seven TDs) are Lynch's most frequent targets. The Huskies are permitting an average of 25.0 ppg, while allowing just 147.1 ypg on the ground to rank second in the MAC in rushing defense, but they are still last among the 13 teams in the conference versus the pass, allowing 271.6 ypg.
Pick: Hard to go against NIU at home, so I won't do it. They have won 22 games in a row here and should make it 23 after this one. This are concerns with their passing defense going up against this high powered Ball State attack, but lets also note that NIU has been ahead in many of their games meaning that teams have needed to pass to catch up. This will be a much closer game and that should mean a better game defensively by the Huskies. On offense they are hard to stop, especially here where they have averaged 545 ypg and 44.2 ppg this year. It won't be easy for much of the game, but NIU should pull ahead late and win by at least 10 points.
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