The final week of Mid-American Conference football is upon us. All three schools in Michigan are scheduled to close the regular season on Saturday, despite two games within the conference being canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Kent State vs. Ohio and Miami vs. Bowling Green were the two matchups called off. But as it stands, Eastern Michigan will host Northern Illinois at noon, and Western Michigan goes to Ball State for a noon kickoff and Central Michigan finishes the season at Toledo at 3 p.m.
Western (+2) and Central (+13) opened as underdogs, while Eastern debuted as a pregame favorite for the first time this year at -3 before the line has ballooned to -6 at most sportsbooks.
The Broncos’ (4-1) matchup with Ball State (4-1) will decide the top spot in the MAC West Division, with the winner set to face Buffalo in the MAC Championship on Dec. 18 at Ford Field.
Western is coming off a 53-42 loss to an Eastern squad that was a 14-point underdog to the Broncos. Western surrendered 533 yards of offense, allowing an average of 7 yards per play while getting gouged on the ground for 218 yards.
The Broncos committed three turnovers and lost fumbles on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter that allowed Eastern to turn a two-point lead into a 43-28 advantage.
Besides Buffalo (5-0), Ball State has been the league’s hottest team, winning its last four games after a 38-31 loss to Miami Ohio. The Cardinals rank fifth in the league in scoring per game (34.4 points per game) and are fourth in yards per game (479).
Eastern finally held onto a fourth-quarter lead. The Eagles have led in the fourth quarter in three of their losses this season, only to squander each advantage and lose down the stretch.
But against rival Western and the MAC West leader, Eastern managed to break its trend of faltering by starting the fourth with a 75-yard touchdown drive for a 50-35 advantage. Following an onside kick recovery, Eastern added a field goal for the 53-42 final.
Now the Eagles (1-4) will be favored for the first time this season against winless Northern Illinois (0-5). Bettors are backing Eastern, with the pre-game spread rising from -3 to -6.
The Huskies are one of the worst-ranked teams on offense and defense, allowing the 10th-most points per game (38.2) and feature just the 10th-best offense (23.2).
Meanwhile, Central (3-2) is sputtering to the end of its season after its 45-20 loss to Ball State gave the Chippewas their second loss in three games.
In each loss, it has been Central’s defense that has let the team down. Against Western, Central allowed 628 yards of offense in the 52-44 defeat, and the unit was not much better against Ball State. The Cardinals recorded 519 yards of offense with quarterback Drew Plitt completing 26 of 43 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
Statistically, besides Western, Toledo (3-2) will be the best offense Central has faced. Toledo averages the fourth-most points per game (37.2) and is second in yards per game at 514.