MAC Championship Game Bet Preview and Game Preview
The MAC Championship Game between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Northern Illinois Huskies figures to be one of the more entertaining games of championship weekend. This is a big deal for the Golden Flashes, who haven’t been to the MAC title game since losing double overtime to Northern Illinois in 2012. In contrast, the Huskies have crowned MAC champs in 2018 and have made the most appearances in the conference championship game. At Ford Field in Detroit, Kent State is a 2.5-point favorite, with the over/under set at 73.5 points.
Last week, the Golden Flashes needed overtime to beat Miami (Ohio) in a game that decided the MAC East Division. The Kent State defense got a stop on a two-point conversion attempt to seal the win. The Golden Flashes now head to the conference title game at 7-5.
Meanwhile, the Huskies head to Detroit, coming off a loss that dropped them to 8-4. NIU had already wrapped up the MAC West Division before a 42-21 loss to Western Michigan. Nevertheless, the Huskies have lost two of their last four games, including a 52-47 head-to-head loss to Kent State.
The Big Question
For NIU, the biggest question ahead of the MAC title game is whether or not quarterback Rocky Lombardi will play. The Huskies managed just 291 total yards with Lombardi out last week, and 96 of those came on one run by Clint Ratkovich. While Lombardi has been far from exceptional this year, the Huskies need his experience in such a big game.
The only silver lining is that Northern Illinois ranks top-5 nationally in rushing yards. Ratkovich leads the way with 11 touchdowns, while Jay Ducker and Harrison Waylee average better than five yards per carry. But a balanced approach on offense will be needed for the NIU offense, with the Huskies giving up more than 33 points per game on the season.
The Next Challenge
Early in the season, the Golden Flashes challenged themselves with non-conference games against Texas A&M, Iowa, and Maryland. We’ll now see if those games have prepared Kent State to win big-time games against other MAC teams late in the year. Much like NIU, the Golden Flashes have been one of the best rushing teams in the country this year, ranking third nationally with 247 yards per game on the ground.
The biggest difference is that Kent State doesn’t have any questions at quarterback. Senior Dustin Crum has plenty of experience under his belt and has been reliable all season, throwing 15 touchdown passes with just four interceptions, in addition to being part of Kent State’s excellent rushing attack. But with a defense that’s giving up over 34 points per game, the Golden Flashes need to be sharp offensively and ready to win a shootout.
The Fun Begins
As the over/under for this game indicates, the MAC Championship Game figures to be a shootout, with both teams likely to score 30-plus points, if not more. In the end, it’ll likely come down to what defense can come up with a big stop or a turnover at a critical time. Of course, the status of Lombardi could also swing this game one way or another.
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