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Expect Offensive Fireworks in MAC Title Game

When the season started, the Mid-American Conference Championship Game was expected to feature Buffalo playing either Ball State or Toledo.

Northern Illinois (+5000) was an afterthought as the Huskies had the lowest MAC championship odds among teams in the West Division. Kent State was a distant third in the East Division preseason predictions but they are the last two teams standing.

kent state golden flashes vs northern illinois huskies 2021 mac championship game
Matthew Holst / Getty Images via AFP

The college football picks total of 74½ is the highest of any of this weekend’s championship games and that is not surprising since both MAC finalists have given up more points than they scored this season.

It will be a matchup of two of the top-five rushing teams in the country.

With the game being played indoors, those who bet online won; have any weather issues to take into consideration.

Game: Kent State (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (8-4)
Location: Ford Field
Day/Time: Saturday, Dec. 4, 12 p.m. ET
Television: ESPN

Kent State vs Northern Illinois Betting Lines

Team Point Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Kent State -3½ (-105) -160 74½ (-110o)
Northern Illinois +3½ (-115) +140 74½ (-110u)

Kent State Hits the Ground Running

The only two FBS teams to average more rushing yards per game than Kent State are Army and Air Force, a pair of option offenses that rank 130th and 128th out of 130 teams in passes attempted. The Golden Flashes don’t exactly resemble Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense, but they do throw the ball nearly 30 times a game.

Sophomore Marquez Cooper, who is third in the MAC with 1,075 rushing yards, and senior Xavier Williams are a formidable 1-2 punch for defenses to contend with. They will be going up against a Northern Illinois defense that ranks 11th in the MAC in rushing defense, allowing 217.4 yards per game and with 5.7 yards per rushing attempt.

Kent State is 5-0 when rushing for more than 250 yards and 2-5 when being held under 250 yards.

The Golden Flashes are 6-0 when listed by the Las Vegas odds as the favorite. They are 5-1 against the spread in those games.

Kent State leads the MAC with 24 forced turnovers including 15 interceptions.

The Golden Flashes’ last trip to the MAC championship game came in 2012 when they lost 44-37 in two overtimes to Northern Illinois.

Northern Illinois Huskies Back in the Title Game

It wasn’t that long ago that the Northern Illinois Huskies were the dominant force in the MAC. From 2010-2015 they played in the conference championship game every year winning titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Another championship followed in 2018. There have been some trying times since with a 5-13 record over the last two seasons including an 0-6 mark in 2020.

Northern Illinois went 6-1 in one-score games once conference play started with the loss ironically to Kent State. A one-point win over Central Michigan was the tiebreaker to give the Huskies a record ninth trip to the MAC championship game.

Northern Illinois is tied for the conference lead with seven offensive plays of at least 60 yards and has scored on 40 of 43 red-zone trips, the sixth-best mark in the country and best among MAC teams.

Freshman Jay Drucker had a total of 85 rushing yards in Northern Illinois’ first six games. Ever since he has been as productive as any back in the league with five 100-yard games including 210 yards in a win over Bowling Green.

The Huskies have covered against the college football odds in six of their last nine games although in December games, they have failed to cover in their last seven contests.

Kent State, Northern Illinois Have Tough Act to Follow

The regular-season meeting between the Kent State Golden Flashes and Northern Illinois Huskies has a fun experience for the fans but not so much for defensive coordinators or scoreboard operators.

The teams combined for 97 points and 1347 yards of total offense in the regular-season meeting with Kent State emerging with the 52-47 win so don’t expect a 17-14 game.

That wild affair was the first meeting between the teams so there aren’t many betting trends to rely on for this one.

We’re going with the favored Kent State Golden Flashes in this one and yes, even with a total of 74½, taking the over would seem to be a wise choice.

Pick: Kent State Golden Flashes -160

Pick: Kent State Golden Flashes -3½ (-105)

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