MACtion Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for Wednesday’s College Football Games
Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Northern Illinois logos.
- Weekday college football is far from over, as we have two more MAC games on Wednesday's slate.
- Our experts, Collin Wilson and Kody Malstrom, broke down both Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo and Central Michigan vs. Ball State.
- Read on for full betting breakdowns and picks for the games.
After a stellar Tuesday night of college football action, The MACtion Network returns for two more MAC games on Wednesday.
Central Michigan and Ball State will take the field in a key MAC West battle. The Chippewas sit at 4-2 in conference play, just one game behind division-leading Northern Illinois. The Cardinals, meanwhile, come in at 3-3 and hope to pull closer to their foes with the off-chance of securing a MAC Championship berth.
At the same time, those MAC-West-leading Huskies will take on Buffalo in a cross-division matchup with hopes of securing an insurmountable lead in the West.
Collin Wilson and Kody Malstrom take us through these matchups below and explain where the betting value lies in each contest. After all, who doesn’t like betting college football on a random Wednesday night in November?
Wednesday College Football Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Central Michigan vs. Ball State
Although Northern Illinois has a firm grip on the MAC West Division, there is still plenty to play for between Central Michigan and Ball State.
Both teams are just behind the Huskies in the race to make the conference championship, needing Northern Illinois to drop its remaining games on the schedule.
The Chippewas have just five wins on the season, needing a victory over Ball State or Eastern Michigan in Week 13 to be eligible for the postseason.
Ball State has qualified for the postseason but must win out at home here against Central Michigan and next week against Buffalo to remain in contention for the West.
There has been a clear difference in scoring with these two teams, as Ball State has gone under the total in three straight games, while Central Michigan has gone over in three straight.
Both teams rank in the top 25 in tempo, which should make for great consumer viewing of MACtion.
Explosive Plays are Key for Chippewas
The point totals continue to increase for the Chippewas, throwing more offensive points on the board in each of the last four games.
The defensive competition has lightened for quarterback Daniel Richardson, who posted four touchdowns and 268 yards passing against Kent State last week.
Richardson hit six different receivers for at least 20 yards through the air in the victory.
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 11, 2021
Central Michigan has rising ranks on the offensive side of the ball splitting time between 11 and 12 formations with an even balance of run and pass.
The biggest aspect of the offense is the explosive play, as 15% of offensive possessions have averaged more than 10-plus yards per play.
Over the past three games Richardson has a 9:1 ratio in big-time throws versus turnover-worthy plays.
With the good comes the bad, as the Central Michigan defense also gives up a handful of explosive plays per game. The Chippewas are 108th in standard downs explosiveness on defense, showing that when teams look downfield early in drives, they find plenty of success.
The defense is boom-or-bust out of the 4-2-5 scheme, sending blitz on 35% of downs. Central Michigan is top-10 in tackles for loss, creating a high rank in Defensive Havoc, but those blitz attempts have been picked apart throughout the season.
Will Ball State’s Championship-Level Offense Return?
Quarterback Drew Plitt has had a fantastic season from a touchdown-to-interception ratio perspective (15:4), but a closer look at the numbers shows volatility.
Plitt has more turnover-worthy plays on the season than big-time throws while having the lowest drop rate of his five seasons at Ball State. There has not been a change in scheme, as head coach Mike Neu continues to run 20 and 21 formations on 85% of snaps.
This offense won the MAC Championship game just a season ago but has fallen outside the top 100 in Passing Success Rate and pass explosiveness.
When the pass blocking has held up, shades of that explosive offense have returned in MAC play.
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTBVids_YT) November 11, 2021
The defense has also struggled in the passing game, as the Cardinals support the third-worst rank in Passing Success Rate and a PFF grade of 97th in coverage.
Early downs are where the Ball State defense gets in trouble, ranking 125th in standard downs Success Rate.
The defense schemes in and out of a 2-4-5 and 2-5-4 depending on down and distance, but with a heavy set in the back seven, this defense is 110th in Havoc Rate.
A minimal blitz rate of 14% has this defense constantly playing off its heels.
Central Michigan vs. Ball State Betting Pick
An opening total of 62.5 has moved down to 59.5 as the chance of precipitation in the forecast has increased.
Both teams have middling ranks in Special Teams SP+, but Mother Nature may cause a few kicks to blow south. Rain and steady winds over 15 mph are expected, with the heaviest of weather predicted in the second half.
Central Michigan has the offensive advantage in this game with Richardson’s ability to create explosive plays. The Ball State defense has been steam-rolled in standard downs this season from a Success Rate perspective, but the Cardinals are designed to stop the explosive play.
The defensive scheme that has nine players off the line of scrimmage has created a top-35 defense in big-play prevention, specifically one that ranks second in defensive passing expected points.
If Central Michigan wants to score, methodical drives — not explosive plays — will put points on the board.
The Action Network projected total is 59.5 right in line with the current market. The biggest key number in totals for college football is 59, making the full-game under a play through 59. No first-half play can be suggested with the heaviest of weather expected after halftime.
The Chippewas are projected as 3-point favorites, but the market opened with Ball State as a favorite.
The splits by quarter must be noted, as Central Michigan has started slow with -2.3 net points in the first quarter and +5.3 in the second quarter. Ball State has been the exact opposite on the season, netting +2.1 points in the first quarter and -6 in the second quarter.
Because of the discrepancies and the weather expected for the second half, Ball State pre-game and Central Michigan second quarter live bets are in order.
There’s also a huge discrepancy in “Middle 8” rankings, with Ball State at 121st on the season. This further enforces a live bet on the Chippewas in the second quarter.
Pick: Under 59 or Better | Live Bets
Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo
MACtion strolls along with more midweek action as we near the end of the college football season.
This is when we start to see conference championship pictures shape up and which teams are fighting for their lives to get a bowl bid — the crowning achievement for any middling team.
Going into this week, both Northern Illinois and Buffalo fit that criterion.
Northern Illinois has been setting the pace in the MAC West, leading the division all season. While it’s not completely secured, it has comfort in knowing it owns the tiebreaker over second-place Central Michigan.
Buffalo, meanwhile, is just 2-4 in the conference and has seemingly no MAC Championship hopes. But that doesn’t mean the Bulls have nothing to play for. Sitting at 4-6, they need to win their next two in order to go bowling.
This may very well come down to motivation, making this a must-watch for our Wednesday night pleasure.
Huskies Will Look to Run
Northern Illinois’ offense scheme is pretty straightforward: run the ball, run some more, and then run it again. The Huskies boast one of the highest rush rates in football at 63%, ranking 13th in the nation.
Not only do they run it as much as possible, but they also do it efficiently. The Huskies are near the top 20 in both rushing metrics, ranking 21st in Rush Success Rate and 13th Line Yards.
Running back Jay Ducker has led the team in rushing, gaining 734 yards and three touchdowns at an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He comes into this matchup with some momentum after rushing for 155 yards in his last outing.
Another key metric that explains the Huskies’ success has been their ability to take care of the ball. Ranking 22nd in Havoc Allowed, keeping possession and staying on schedule is more important than ever as they play at one of the slowest paces in football.
NIU Needs to Defend the Run
Insert the Spider-Man pointing at each other GIF because the Huskies defense will need to prep for Buffalo’s rush attack.
While Buffalo doesn’t run it nearly as often as the Huskies, it will still look to exploit this poor rush defense as often as possible. NIU ranks near the bottom of the nation in both defensive rush metrics, ranking 126th in Defensive Rush Success Rate and 129th in Line Yards.
NIU generates little to no Havoc and is one of the worst coverage teams in football. This is an all-around poor defense that constantly relies on its offense to keep it ahead in games.
Buffalo Should Attack NIU’s Defense
Buffalo’s playbook will be wide open going into this game, as NIU is one of the worst defenses in football that’s not Akron. It ranks on the wrong side of 100 in nearly every defensive metric.
NIU owns one of the worst rush defenses in football, an area that Buffalo will look to attack early and often. Buffalo ranks around the national median in rushing metrics, ranking 57th in Rush Success and 59th in Line Yards.
Running back Dylan McDuffie will look to shred the Huskies defense as the focal point of the offense. He has run for 857 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
If the Bulls want to keep their bowl hopes alive, they will need to make every possession count because NIU is one of the slowest-paced teams in football. More time off the clock from the NIU run-heavy offense equals fewer possessions.
The Game Comes Down to Bulls Defense
While the Buffalo offense should have no problems putting up points against the NIU defense, it will be up to the Buffalo defense to seal the win and keep its bowl hopes alive.
This is easier said than done, as the Buffalo defense is nothing special. In fact, it ranks worse in nearly every metric matchup when compared to the NIU offense.
There’s one shining glimmer of hope for this Buffalo defense: the pass rush. It will pressure opposing quarterback Rocky Lombardi early and often, as Buffalo ranks 12th in the nation in pass rush.
Lombardi has shown he’s prone to turn it over from his Michigan State days. Now with the Huskies, he’s already thrown for seven interceptions.
Buffalo will need to capitalize on any turnover luck I can get, as NIU ranks 22nd in Havoc Allowed.
Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo Betting Pick
In my opinion, this is the most intriguing MACtion matchup of the week.
Northern Illinois will look to seal a berth to the MAC Championship, while Buffalo needs to win out the season to become bowl eligible.
I lean toward Buffalo, as it should have no problem scoring on NIU’s horrendous defense. The Bulls have a key advantage with their pass rush, which hopefully can rattle Lombardi into making mistakes.
Buffalo’s spread isn’t the only bet on my radar, as NIU’s rush rate and pace of play make the under intriguing as well.
As of writing, high winds and rain are expected. This may lead to both offenses going even more run-heavy and bleeding the clock all game. With neither team being spectacular in big plays created, we could see stalled-out runs stuffed often on early downs.
Our Action Network projections currently have Buffalo as a -1.5 favorite. I grabbed Buffalo at +2 and would play this no less than our projection. I will also monitor the weather to hit the under come game time.