The MAC Championship Game will be contested on Friday night at Ford Field, and we are set to make our Ohio Bobcats vs. Northern Illinois Huskies picks for one of the biggest games on the schedule! Check out the MAC Championship keys to the game!
MAC Championship Game: Ohio Bobcats vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
MAC Championship Game Location: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
MAC Championship Game Date/Time: Friday, December 2nd, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
MAC Championship Game Television Schedule: ESPN2, ESPN3.com
Key #1: The Bobcats have to put a harness on Harnish
QB Chandler Harnish is one of the most athletic players in the entire country, and he is going to be the one player on the field that the Bobcats truly have to contain. If Harnish gets going with his legs and his arm, this NIU offense is absolutely impossible to stop. Harnish accounted for 2,692 passing yards and 1,351 rushing yards this year, and he has a total of 34 TDs to his credit. He hardly ever turns the ball over either, as he only has five picks on the campaign. The Bobcats have the speed in their front seven on defense to be able to at least keep Harnish under wraps, but the problem is that he can beat you with his arm as well in a big time way, and he isn’t afraid to spread the ball around to a slew of receivers. Ohio only ranked No. 62 in the nation against the pass at 226.7 yards per game.
Ohio Bobcats +3.5
Northern Illinois Huskies -3.5
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The Huskies make no bones about the fact that they want to run up and down the field to wear down your defense, and that’s exactly what the Bobcats need to avoid. The ground game for Ohio is as good as any in the MAC, averaging 211.7 yards per game. Sure, QB Tyler Tettleton can and will run whenever he gets the chance, but the real key is going to be keeping the ball in the hands of RBs Donte Harden, Ryan Boykin, and Beau Blankenship. These three toted the rock a total of 339 times this season, and they averaged right around five yards per carry in this stretch as well. If they can keep the ball moving on the ground against a rush defense which ranks No. 84 in the nation, the Bobcats are going to be in good shape.
Key #3: NIU special teams have to at least be remotely special
Though the Huskies do score a slew of points, they have a big time problem on special teams. Kick and punt returning isn’t a problem, but when it comes to the kicking game, there are some issues. P Ryan Neir is only averaging 35.3 yards per punt this year, and his long boot is only 54 yards. Meanwhile, K Mathew Sims has had problems kicking the ball from any sort of distance. He is only 3-of-6 in kicks that are longer than 38 yards on the season, and he hasn’t hit one from further than 44 yards. We tend to think that Ohio’s defense will at least make this sophomore kicking in his first big time game work for his points, and if that turns out to be the case, the Huskies could be in some real trouble.