Northern Illinois (8-4, 6-2) vs Bowling Green (9-3, 7-1)
When: Friday, December 4th 2015
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Time: 8:00 ET | TV: ESPN2
For the third straight year the Mid American Conference Championship Game will feature the Northern Illinois Huskies and Bowling Green Falcons. The teams have split the title the last two years with each earning convincing wins. The Huskies come into this game with quarterback issues and will use Freshman Tommy Fiedler to start the game and Ryan Graham as the backup. Graham, who is playing for starting QB Drew Hare, injured himself in last week’s loss against Ohio. Fiedler came in and was 9-of-17 for 113 yards and a touchdown. It was Fiedler first action on the field this season and coach Rod Carey seems confident in the young QB. “There’s still an opportunity that (Graham) would play in the game, but Tommy will come in as our starter,” Carey said. “It’s one of those things where we’re all day-to-day, right? And some of us just a little more day-to-day than others right now.” Northern Illinois junior running back Joel Bouagnon (1,212 yards, 18 touchdowns) said the team has tried not to let the quarterback injuries bother it during the season. “Anyone we’re putting in there is good enough to do the job,” Bouagnon said. “We’ll be all right.” The Huskies had to sweat it out during Thanksgiving after their loss to Ohio last Tuesday. They could have clinched the title with a win, but managed to sneak in with a four-way tie in the West, but they won the tiebreaker with a better head-to-head than Toledo, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan.
Bowling Green’s run through the East was much easier as they clinched two weeks before the end of the season. Their only conference loss was 44-28 to Toledo and they didn’t get a chance to play Northern Illinois until now. The Falcons have zero issues at quarterback as Matt Johnson has led Bowling Green to the third ranked passing attack and overall offense in the country. The senior has completed 68.9% of his passes for 4,465 yards, 41 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions. He needs just 22 yards to pass Ben Roethlisberger (Miami, OH) for the all-time passing yards leader in MAC history. Johnson set a MAC Championship Game record in 2013 when he passed for 5 touchdowns in the 47-27 win over Northern Illinois. Dino Babers, in his second season as head coach at Bowling Green, said he never has had a quarterback do what Johnson has done in his first year in the high-tempo, spread offense. “He is operating at a level of a quarterback in their second year with this offense,” Babers said. “And the only quarterback I’ve ever had go through two years in the system is the backup for Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo.” Its a good thing Bowling Green has a dominant offense, because their defense is very weak. They rank 90th in FBS in yards allowed and 101st in passing defense allowing 255.2 yards a game through the air.
Bouagnon will be key for Northern Illinois. With a third-string quarterback, the Huskies need to establish a solid run game and keep Johnson and the Falcons off the field as much as possible. Bowling Green is favored in this game, and they should be, but the line is way too high for me. I’ll take the Huskies to cover.
Pick: Northern Illinois +12