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Red-Hot MAC Picks, Week 3
Looks like a tough week for our Mid-American friends, folks.
Image from mgoblue.com
Northern Illinois (1-1) at #25 Michigan
Michigan Stadium • Ann Arbor, Mich.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 • Noon EDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -27.5
Northern Illinois lost, 50-43, at home to Wyoming following a furious second-half comeback in which the Huskies rallied from a 42-16 third quarter deficit to actually take a 43-42 lead before losing on a last-minute Cowboys TD drive. The previous week, NIU pulled out a miracle 22-21 win over Georgia Tech, so these kids live for the drama.
NIU’s Harrison Waylee is third in FBS with 323 rushing yards, according to NIUHuskies.com. My least-favorite QB in America, Rocky Lombardi, is a former Michigan State Spartan and led MSU to a 27-23 win over the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium last year.
The Huskies can run the ball! They have six rushing TDs this year and over 156 yards on the ground per game in each of its first two contests—an achievement reached only once last year.
Michigan started the season unranked, blew the doors off of Western Michigan, 47-14 in its home opener, and then pulled off a 31-10 spanking of visiting Washington to sneak into the AP Top 25.
Blake Corum was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. Washington, which included career highs in rushing yards (171), touchdowns (3) and all-purpose yards (231 )
Hassan Haskins rushed 27 times for a career-high 155 yards against Washington (Sept. 11). He has 100-plus yards in three of his last four games dating to last season.
Michigan's offense ranks fourth nationally in rushing (339.0 yards per game) and fifth in yards per carry (6.85).
According to Pro Football Focus College, the Wolverine backs have forced 27 missed tackles so far this season.
This is all bad news for NIU. From USA Today: “According to PFF, NIU is the 119th-rated rush defense with a grade of 50.3. The Huskies have allowed 231 yards-per-game on the ground so far after two games.”
That’s a huge spread, but NIU’s been getting by on guts and guile. That won’t stop a big-time rushing attack. The Wolverines run wild in this win and cover at home.II
Image from @ubfootball
#16 Coastal Carolina (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1)
UBStadium * Amherst, NY
September 18, 2021 * 12:00 pm
Spread: Coastal Carolina -14
We’ve written quite a bit about this game (quite a bit indeed), and while you know we love Buffalo, it’s difficult to see how the Bulls a.) slow down an offense that has scored on 14 of its 20 possessions this season and has a defense that has not allowed a single passing touchdown over the first two games of the year.
Don’t expect UB QB Kyle Vantrease to go throw-to-throw with CCU’s Grayson McCall, either: the Chants D is first in the Sun Belt and ninth nationally in passing yards allowed this season at 126.0 yards per game, according to goccusports.com.
If there is a weakness in the Coastal Carolina armor, it's the rushing defense, which has allowed nearly 200 yards per game in its first two contests. That just happens to be be Buffalo’s strength! Interesting.
We’ll see, but the Bulls will be hard pressed to keep this game close, much less win. Sorry, guys. Prove me wrong!
Closer than expected but Chanticleers wear out the Bulls in the second half for the win and the cover.
Image from @wmu_football
Western Michigan (1-1) at Pittsburgh (2-0)
Heinz Field * Pittsburgh, Pa.
September 18, 2021 * 12:00 pm
Television: ACC Network Plus
Spread: Pitt -14
Pitt is coming off a 41-34 victory at Tennessee, and PittsburghPanthers.com notes that the Panthers have now won five of their past six games.
In those five victories, Pitt has averaged 42.8 points per game. QB Kenny Pickett is healthy this season, and is playing at Dan Marino (college version) levels. Additionally, the Panthers’ sack attack tallied 97 sacks over the 2019-20 seasons and has 10 sacks through two games this year.
But the Panthers can’t score if they don’t have the ball! WMUBroncos.com states that Western Michigan ranks 15th national in time of possession, averaging 34:30 per game so far. That ball control led to a big win over FCS Illinois State but an absolute drubbing at the hands of Michigan in the season opener.
QB Kaleb Eleby, who was ranked third in FBS in passer rating in 2020 (195.08) trailing only New England Patriots savior Mac Jones and former BYU Cougar Zach Wilson, has been a major disappointment so far this season. It’s been two games, but he has just two passing TDs and 365 total passing yards. As a result, the offense is clicking nowhere near the 41.7 points and 480 yards per game it cranked out in 2020.
You’d want this to be a great shootout but WMU is struggling to pass this season. When facing upper echelon talent, WMU folded and Pitt’s stepped up. The Panthers have posted 92 points this season and the Broncos have 42, including 28 against an FCS team. Take Pitt to win, and with Eleby struggling, take the Panthers despite the points.
Image from @EMUFB
Eastern Michigan (1-1) at UMass (0-2)
McGuirk Alumni Stadium * Amherst, Mass.
September 18, 2021 * 3:30 pm
Television: FloSports / NESN
Spread: EMU -22
EMU is 1-1 after losing to #17 Wisconsin, 34-7, on the road. No shame there! There’s not much to say about the Eagles; they, uh, have a really good punter, Jake Julien, a nominee for the 2021 Ray Guy Award. His 43.4 career average is tied for first in school history record books. Against the Badgers, Julien punted a lot (not unexpected), eight times in total, and flipped the field for a total of 411 total yards, or 51.4 yards per kick. Julien's 49.6 yards per punt in 2021 is seventh in the nation. So...yeah.
EMU does not have an especially sexy offense. Or defense. Or resume. Good punter, though! UMass, however, has lost its last six contests by an average of 35 points. The valiant effort in its 17-point loss against Boston College last week was its closest game since an eight-point loss to Akron in Sept. 2019. There’s really no reason to go against the Eagles here, either to win or cover, mainly because the Minutemen are just so darn bad.
Image from @HawkeyeFootball
Kent State (1-1) at #5 Iowa (2-0)
Kinnick Stadium * Iowa City, Iowa
September 18, 2021 * 3:30 pm
Television: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -22
Kent State is coming off a 60-10 home-opening victory over FCS #17 VMI Keydets last Saturday at Dix Stadium. Some idiot actually picked VMI to cover in that game (looks around nervously).
The #FASTFlash offense is back, racking up 494 yards on the ground, the most in program history since 1954 and a single-game high so far in the FBS this season. Seven players ran for TDs.
Kent State also recorded four INTs a week after forcing #6 Texas A&M into six turnovers (a game the Flashes still lost by 31 points) and have the 15th-most efficient pass defense in the country.
It probably won’t matter. Iowa is the only team in the country with two wins over ranked opponents (#17 Indiana, 34-6; at #9 Iowa State, 27-17) and have outscored their last eight opponents, 275-106, averaging 34.3 points per game.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes haven’t given up more than 25 points in 24 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation among Power 5 teams.
And takeaways: Iowa is second in the Big Ten in takeaways (7), and third in both scoring defense (11.5) and rush defense (82.0). Kent State leads the country in INTs; Iowa is number two.
Hawkeyes QB Spencer Petras has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions over the last eight games, all wins. RB Tyler Goodson is averaging 102.3 yards per game with nine rushing TDs in that same streak.
It’s tempting to take Kent State and the points, especially after hanging 50 on VMI, but Iowa ain’t VMI. The Hawkeyes also aren’t as prone to losing the turnover battle as other opponents, and let’s face it, even when snatching six turnovers from the Aggies earlier this season, the Golden Flashes still lost by more than four TDs. Iowa’s defense is arguably better than that dominant A&M unit. Take Iowa and the points. It hurts! It hurts.
Image from @ZipsFB
Bryant (1-1) at Akron (0-2)
InfoCision Stadium * Akron, Ohio
September 18, 2021 * 3:30 pm
Television: Watch ESPN App
Spread: Akron -10.5
Oh, Akron. Last week, Akron surrendered 38 unanswered points to Temple and lost its home opener, 45-24. Senior QB Kato Nelson completed 7-of-12 passes and threw for 82 yards and a touchdown before exiting the game with an injury. His game day status is unknown for this week.
Replacement D.J. Irons, who provided the only spark of offense in Akron’s 60-10 season-opening loss at Auburn, was just OK, and certainly didn’t do enough to keep the Zips from blowing a two-TD lead en route to the embarrassing loss.
But there’s always Bubba: LB Bubba Arslanian was the MAC East Co-Defensive Player of the Week after collecting a game-high 17 tackles against the Owls. That’s the most tackles in any single game in the FBS this season. He’s second in the NCAA in total tackles per game (12.5) and solo tackles per contest (6.0).
Bryant averages 19.0 points and 310.5 yards per game. The Bulldogs are first in the NCAA FCS in red zone offense.
Auburn toyed with Akron in a 60-10 victory. Temple ripped off 38 unanswered in a win over the Zips. Even so, Bryant is an unranked FCS team with an average offense (except in that red zone!) that got smoked by Rhode Island and beat Sacred Heart by 11. If you’re ever going to bet on Akron as a favorite, today’s probably the day—but hold your nose while doing so.
Image from @MiamiOHFootball
LIU (0-2) at Miami (Ohio) (0-2)
Yager Stadium * Oxford, Ohio
September 18, 2021 * 3:30 pm
Spread: Miami -39.5
It’s been a tough opening act to the season for both of these teams. Miami (Ohio) lost to #8 Cincinnati, 49-14, and to Big 10 foe Minnesota, 31-26.
FCS Long Island University was absolutely brutalized by West Virginia and Florida International, losing the two games by a combined score of 116-0.
Miami returns 10 starters from 2020, including third-team All-MAC performers in Kameron Butler and Lonnie Phelps.
Trailing 21-3 at halftime against MInnesota, the RedHawks scored 17 unanswered points and trailed 21-20 early in the fourth quarter. The RedHawks surrendered zero passing yards in the second half andout-gained the Golden Gophers 341-287.
Brett Gabbert made his first start of the year and Jack Coldiron had a career-high four catches for 67 yards.
Graham Nicholson was 2-for-2 on field goals, including a career-long 46-yard kick. He was named MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.
Mike Brown had a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss
How could you possibly take LIU? Even with what’s essentially a 40-point spread, what have the Sharks shown that they can be competitive with an FBS team? This should be a glorified scrimmage for Miami, a team that showed, at the very least, real progress against Minnesota.
Image from @BallStateFB
Ball State (1-1) at Wyoming (2-0)
War Memorial Stadium * Laramie, Wyoming
September 18, 2021 * 4 pm
Spread: Wyoming -7
Ball State had fashioned itself as giant-killers, knocking off eight straight opponents and two ranked teams (including Buffalo) until it ran into Penn State last week. The result: a 44-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The Cardinals were down 14-0 after the Nittany Lions’ first two possessions and the game was never close.
But remember: Steele sharpens Steele. “Freshman RB Carson Steele has emerged as a strong candidate to receive touches out of the backfield so far in his first collegiate season,” notes BallStateSports.com. “Steele has a touchdown in both games against Western Illinois and Penn State. He is one of only two true freshmen in the country to rush for a touchdown in both games to begin the season.”
As for Wyoming—well, what a strange team. Wyoming is 2-0, and has scored a touchdown in the final two minutes of the game to secure both wins; this would be more impressive if those wins weren’t against Montana State (#13 in FCS!) and Northern Illinois. The Cowboys dropped 50 on the Huskies, but that was only after blowing a 26-point third quarter lead.
Wyoming prides itself on rugged independence and balanced offense, with 46 percent of its production coming from the run game and 54 percent via the cool mountain air.
MLB Chad Muma is kind of the Bubba Arslanian of the Mountain West, a tackling machine who has the third-most hits per game in the nation.
RB Xazavian Valladay had the 11th 100-yard rushing game of his career when he topped triple digits against NIU, and is seventh in Wyoming history with 2,389 career rushing yards, reports gowyosports.com.
Tough one! Ball State’s one win was a 31-21 victory over Western Illinois, an FCS opponent, and was essentially non-competitive against #10 Penn State. Are these the same big-game hunters of 2020 or has fate caught up with the Cardinals?
And Wyoming—the Cowboys barely beat Montana State and did everything they could to blow their win over NIU. I think Wyoming probably wins today at home, but I’d take Ball State with the points.
Image from @CSUFootball
Colorado State (0-2) at Toledo (1-1)
The Glass Bowl * Toledo, Ohio
September 18, 2021 * 4 pm
Spread: Toledo -14.5
“The Toledo Rockets return to the Glass Bowl to face Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 18 after nearly pulling off one of the greatest upsets in school history last week,” proclaims UTRockets.com.
But they didn’t. Toledo led, 29-24, with 1:35 left in the game on a Dequan Finn score before Notre Dame took all of 26 seconds to nab the game-winning TD. So close! But still, a hell of a game.
Sophomore quarterback Carter Bradley completed 17-of-27 passes for 213 yards vs. Notre Dame.
Bryant Koback rushed for 122 yards and one TD on 21 attempts. He now has 2,678 career rushing yards.
Junior linebacker Dyontae Johnson was named MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week with a career-tying 10 tackles vs. Notre Dame, including 1.5 tackles for loss.
Sophomore wide receiver Devin Maddox set career highs with nine receptions and 135 receiving yards, including a 66-yard play in the first quarter.
Toledo's defense racked up six sacks, 11 tackles for loss, five QB hurries, five passes broken up and forced three turnovers.
Colorado State (0-2) has significantly less to hang its horns upon. The Rams opened the season with a pair of home defeats, 42-23 to FCS #2 South Dakota State and 24-21 to Vanderbilt, one of the worst teams in FBS.
“What the Rams have going for them is a bit of confidence,” csurams.com claims. “They limited Vanderbilt to 104 yards on the ground last week, averaging just 2.8 a carry. It was a return back to the 2020 form, when the Rams were only allowing 108.5 yards per game rushing.” Yes, but it was Vanderbilt.
The Rams will be without LB Tavian Brown and S Logan Stewart. Head coach Steve Addazio also wants to eliminate “silly penalties” and worked this past week to build up the mental fortitude of K Cayden Camper, who’s missed three FG attempts in a row.
Colorado State lost to FCS South Dakota State (#2 FCS in the country) and Vanderbilt, currently ranked 119th in ESPN’s RPI ranking. Now that team goes on the road to face a Toledo squad that had #12 Notre Dame on the ropes and seemed to establish an identity as an explosive offensive squad with a big-play defense. Even with potential letdown worries for the Rockets, why would Colorado State be competitive in this game? Take Toledo and the points.
Image from @BG_Football
Murray State (1-1) at Bowling Green (0-2)
Doyt L. Perry Stadium * Bowling Green, Ohio
September 18, 2021 * 5 pm
Spread: Murray State -1
Talk about no respect! BGSU is a one-point dog to #29 FCS Murray State at its own homecoming. Bowling Green has losses to Tennessee and South Alabama, but are they this bad—are they Akron bad?
Let’s give Bowling Green a break on this one: they’ve beaten the spread (if not their opponent) two weeks in a row. Take the Falcons and the point for the win.
Image from @LSUFootball
Central Michigan (1-1) at LSU (1-1)
Tiger Stadium * Baton Rouge, La.
September 18, 2021 * 7:30 pm
Television: SEC Network
Spread: LSU -19.5
I’m running out of gas here, folks, but I’ll say this: CMU isn’t awful, and LSU isn’t the team that won the title two years ago. How’s that for insight?
CMU has been a bit of a surprise: hanging with SEC foe Missouri before falling, 34-24, and dominating RMU. LSU lost to #15 UCLA in a game that was less competitive than expected and then smoked FCS McNeese State. Does that mean CMU is going into Death Valley with legit upset potential? Eh, probably not. But 19.5 is a lot of points. LSU to win, Chips to cover.