MAC Championship Preview and Prediction: Bowling Green Falcons vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
The MAC Championship game will provide the perfect stage for a classic battle between the league’s top ranked defense (Bowling Green Falcons) and the conference’s best rushing attack (Northern Illinois Huskies). Fans will be treated to great football on Friday night, and the team that emerges victorious will have the opportunity to hoist the championship trophy in Ford Field.
For the Bowling Green Falcons (9-3), their season has been filled with dominating performances behind their top ranked defense. On the season, the Falcons have surrendered 13.8 points per game (best in the MAC) and are ranked 5th in the nation in scoring defense. Led by a veteran group of linebackers and defensive backs, the Falcons have reeled off four straight victories to end their season and surrendered a total of 17 points during the four game stretch. Bowling Green is very solid against the run giving up 134.8 rushing yards per game and is allowing 161.8 passing yards per game.
The Falcons have been very good at generating a pass rush this year and have accumulated 27 sacks thorough 12 games. Senior defensive lineman Ted Ouellet leads the team with 4.5 sacks. The Falcons have been very opportunistic in creating turnovers and are a plus-9 in turnover margin on the year.
In order to pick up the victory on Friday, the Falcons must contain Northern Illinois (12-0) quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch is a dual threat player that is having a Heisman type season. Lynch has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,457 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. He leads the team in rushing with 1,755 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and has 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Bowling Green must force Northern Illinois to throw the football and cannot let the rushing attack beat them on Friday. Falcons safety Jerry “Boo Boo” Gates will be instrumental in run support against a Huskies’ rushing attack averaging 318.9 yards per game (4th in the country). The ability for Gates to come up and help out in creating pressure on the Huskies offensive line will be critical to the Falcons forcing third down and long situations.
Bowling Green will need the defense to create field position for their offense. The Falcons are averaging 34.4 points per game (33rd overall) and are very balanced. Bowling Green is averaging 254.4 passing yards per game (40th in the nation) and is averaging 209.6 rushing yards per game (24th in the country).
The Falcons have a very big and physical offensive line so look for them to try and wear down a Huskies defense yielding 23.6 points per game (39th overall). Northern Illinois is giving up 147.5 rushing yards per game, but it has been the secondary that has been vulnerable giving up 263.8 passing yards per game.
Northern Illinois must force the Falcons into short to intermediate throws and into slowly working down the field. Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson is having a solid season completing 63.2 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the year.
Prediction: Conventional wisdom states that Northern Illinois will win this game, but look for the Bowling Green defense to make a statement and pull off the upset. The Falcons will create a late turnover and hand Northern Illinois their first defeat of the season.
Bowling Green 35 Northern Illinois 31