Wednesday Night MACtion Odds & Picks: Our Top Bets for Tonight’s College Football Games (Nov. 10)
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
- Another Wednesday night means another night of MACtion.
- Three college football games take place tonight, including Ball State vs. Northern Illinois, Toledo vs. Bowling Green, and Central Michigan vs. Kent State.
- Three of our writers break down each game and share a betting pick below.
Wednesday night is for two things: Wings night at your local sports bar and MACtion.
While we may not be able to satisfy your hunger for one of America’s best foods, we can fill you up with some bets for Wednesday night’s MACtion slate.
The action starts with Toledo vs. Bowling Green and Ball State vs. Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. ET. Then, we’ll travel to the beautiful city of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, for a battle between Central Michigan and Kent State.
Stuckey, Collin Wilson, and Kyle Remillard hand-picked a bet for each game, so strap in, order your favorite appetizer, and get ready for a buffet full of college football.
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.|
Toledo vs. Bowling Green
The midweek MACtion rolls along on Wednesday night with two teams still fighting for bowl eligibility.
While unlikely for 3-6 Bowling Green, it’s been a successful season for a team many didn’t think would three games in the first place. The opposite is true for Toledo, which should get to bowl eligibility but had much bigger aspirations this year that it looks like will likely not come to fruition.
Yes, it’s a battle of a pair of teams tied for last place in their respective divisions, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t betting value. Let’s take a closer look.
In my eyes, the Rockets have been the most disappointing team in the MAC through the first 10 weeks of the season.
Toledo came into the season as the favorites to win the conference with a season win total at nine. There were many things to love about a roster that boasted more returning production than any team in the nation.
I don’t think many — including myself — expected a 4-5 start and a potential battle to get to bowl eligibility.
The latest loss came against EMU in a game where its defense — and especially special teams — really let it down. There have also been a pair of home losses as two-touchdown favorites (Colorado State, NIU) in addition to two coin-flip losses on the road (Notre Dame, CMU) by a field goal.
Yes, Toledo did indeed have Notre Dame on the ropes in South Bend. This is a talented roster that just hasn’t lived up to expectations on a week-to-week basis. Things look great when they are on (as they did in four easy victories) but ugly when they are not.
The problems for Toledo have primarily come on the offensive end (and special teams). The offensive line has performed extremely poorly, particularly in pass protection (123rd in Sack Rate), which was not expected for a unit that returned everybody from last season.
Carter Bradley also wasn’t getting it done at quarterback — in part due to the lackluster offensive line play — so Toledo made a recent switch by naming dual-threat Dequan Finn the starter.
Finn’s struggled a bit in the passing department, but his mobility is invaluable given the struggles in pass protection. The Rockets now have a very explosive rushing attack that is not easy to defend.
Despite an uncharacteristic poor effort last week, Toledo boasts the best defense in the MAC by a wide margin. The Rockets basically brought back their entire two-deep from last year and added Penn State transfer Judge Culpepper to provide some much-needed beef to the interior of the defensive line.
With star safety Tycen Anderson now fully recovered from injury, this defense really has no weaknesses. It ranks in the top 30 nationally in the following categories:
- Line Yards
- Opportunity Rate
- Passing Downs Sack Rate
- Pass Efficiency Defense
This is a top-40 defense in the country, and the Rockets go as this unit goes — as long as the special teams and offense don’t make too many mistakes.
Bowling Green pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season with a shocking road win at Minnesota as over four-touchdown underdogs. It also got blown out by Akron. It’s been a bizarre season for the Falcons, to say the least, but there appears to be progress for this extremely young roster.
The offense remains a bit of a mess, as there’s a lack of talent at wide receiver and the offensive line has struggled mightily. Matt McDonald has at least looked like he can throw a forward pass this year after offseason surgery, but this is still a bottom-10 offense in FBS.
However, the special teams and defense have been a pleasant surprise. The special teams actually rank in the top 50 nationally, per SP+, which is extremely good for a MAC team (MAC teams generally don’t have as much depth as many Power Five teams and it shows on special teams).
The defense isn’t a world-beater by any stretch, but defensive coordinator Eric Lewis has done a tremendous job after the departure of Brian VanGorder, who I was never a fan of.
The interior remains very undersized and vulnerable against the run, but it’s an aggressive scheme that utilizes various blitz and pressure packages that have successfully generated pressure all season. The additions via the transfer portal in the secondary have also panned out.
Toledo vs. Bowling Green Betting Pick
I like the under here.
I expect a bounce-back performance from the Toledo defense after getting embarrassed for the first time all season against Eastern Michigan.
This is a prideful and veteran group that should show up here with maximum focus. And as long as that’s the case, I don’t see how the Bowling Green offense can do much here.
On the other side of the ball, the Bowling Green defense can create enough negative plays to stop enough Toledo drives to keep this under the total.
The Rockets should move the ball methodically on the ground all night, but that will also keep the clock moving in a matchup between two teams that don’t play particularly fast.
If I had to play a side, it’s Toledo or nothing.
Pick: Under 51 (Play to 50)
Ball State vs. Northern Illinois
November is the one month of the year that Tuesday and Wednesday nights actually have some meaning to them, with all thanks to MACtion.
The MAC West Division is a tight race that will have all six teams fighting in the final month to become the regular-season champion.
Northern Illinois is leading the charge with a 4-1 conference record. The Huskies suffered their first conference loss last week to Kent State, 52-47, in a game where defense was optional.
This week, they host Ball State, which currently sits in a three-way tie for the second spot.
Ball State was lucky to survive last week as 20.5-point favorites over Akron, a bottom-five team in the country. Akron quarterback Zach Gibson fumbled when diving into the end zone to take the lead with 90 seconds remaining.
Zach Gibson dives for the end zone, but fumbles & Ball Stat recovers. Akron was so close to completing the comeback.
BALL STATE 31
— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) November 3, 2021
Though these two teams own the top records on their respective sides of the conference, they are the bottom feeders from a power ratings perspective.
The Cardinals won the 2020 MAC championship and have an opportunity to take control of the West Division with a victory.
Ball State has an opportunity to take control of the MAC West with a victory.
To do that, they’re going to need to slow down the rushing attack of Northern Illinois — something they’ve accomplished as of late.
The Ball State defense has allowed 3.9 yards per carry, which ranks among the top 40 nationally. In the last four games, the Cardinals haven’t allowed a single team to rush for over 130 yards and have held opponents to 2.9 yards per carry.
The defense also ranks among the top 10 in the country in tackling, according to PFF.
Offensively, the Cardinals have taken a step back from the 2020 group that averaged 35 points per game. This season, that number has dropped by 10 points, but they will have an opportunity to look like an elite offense against a nonexistent Northern Illinois defense.
Quarterback Drew Plitt has continued to show improvement as the season has progressed. In the last five games, Plitt has thrown 12 touchdowns to one interception while averaging 7.6 yards per pass attempt.
Freshman running back Carson Steele has rushed for over 100 yards in two of the last three games. He should be in store for a big game against an NIU defense that ranks 125th in Rushing Success Rate and has allowed 5.9 yards per carry (123rd nationally).
Northern Illinois was undefeated (5-0) in one-score games before last week’s 47-52 defeat to Kent State.
In three of those matchups, the Huskies were outgained in total yardage. The others were a two-point victory over Toledo and a one-point victory over Central Michigan in which they trailed by 18 at half.
The Huskies run the ball on 64% of their offensive plays, which gives them a ranking of 10th in the nation in Rush Rate.
Starting running back Harrison Waylee went down with an injury in Week 5. Freshman Jay Ducker has exploded since taking over the starting role by averaging 165 rushing yards per game on 5.9 yards per carry.
The ground game has contributed 52% of the total yards for Northern Illinois.
The passing attack that’s led by quarterback Rocky Lombardi had been underwhelming before the last two weeks. Lombardi threw for six touchdowns and six interceptions while totaling 973 passing yards in the first seven games this season.
Over the last two, he’s tossed six touchdowns and zero interceptions while adding 880 passing yards. Although impressive, those stats came against lackluster defenses in Kent State and Central Michigan.
Defensively, the Huskies have been one of the bottom groups in the MAC, allowing 34 points and 450 total yards per game. Last week against Kent State, the defense was nonexistent and allowed 52 points and nearly 700 yards of total offense.
Northern Illinois defense will be at a major disadvantage in creating Havoc, where they rank 123rd. That goes along with their ranking of 125th in Success Rate and Line Yards.
Ball State vs. Northern Illinois Betting Pick
The Northern Illinois defense has started to look like it’s taking the field with 10 players. The group has allowed 12 touchdowns on 23 possessions over the last two games.
Last week, it allowed nearly 700 yards of total offense, and Thomas Hammock elected to go for an onside kick in the third quarter due to the lack of confidence in his defense.
I don’t blame him for the move as the Huskies have allowed 6.8 yards per play on the season, ranking 121st in the country. Against FBS opponents, the defense has allowed 36 points per game with every opponent scoring at least 20 points.
The Northern Illinois offense has been the bright spot recently that has kept it competitive. The offense owns a rush rate of 64%, but if the ground game isn’t working, the offense has stalled.
Ball State has been stout over the last month at stopping the run by holding opponents to 2.9 yards per carry. The Cardinals will lean on their top-10 tackling unit to contain the Huskies’ rushing attack.
Ball State will be able to string together some stops on early run downs to put the NIU offense behind the chains, somewhere the Huskies aren’t built to overcome.
Pick: Ball State -2.5 (Play to -3)
Kent State vs. Central Michigan
A laser show is expected Wednesday night at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Both Kent State and Central Michigan are two of the fastest teams in the nation, looking to rack up available yards and put points on the board with haste.
The Golden Flashes lead with a heavy scheme toward the rush, ranking second in the nation in Success Rate on the ground. The Chippewas have a more balanced approach, but their top-30 rank in big play percentage will make this an explosive affair.
The stakes could not be higher in the schools’ respective divisional races, as Kent State holds a narrow lead in the East, while Central Michigan is one of four teams with a winning conference record in the West.
The Golden Flashes can lose this game and still win the division in the regular-season finale against Miami (Ohio), but a loss for the Chippewas will all but cancel any travel plans to the MAC Championship.
Kent State Offense
Head coach Sean Lewis has no regard for controlling clock, evidenced by his team ranking near dead last in time of possession. Tempo is the name of the game, as three of the past four games involving the Golden Flashes have finished with more than 75 points.
Contests that have not ended with a high point total include recent conference battles with Ohio and Bowling Green. Both of those teams won the time of possession battle and had more than 50% of drives log two-plus first downs.
Both Ohio and Bowling Green lost by a possession, but the key to beating the Golden Flashes is to slow them down or commit to outscoring them.
— CFB Pylon (@TheCFBPylon) November 4, 2021
The advanced statistics point out the contrasting offensive and defensive units. Overall yards per play from the Kent State offense is 6.27, while the defense sits at 6.28.
The Golden Flashes have given up an explosive drive on 19% of opponent attempts, right in line with an offense that has had an explosive drive on 19% of its 116 possessions.
For every offensive anomaly, there’s an equal mirror shortcoming with the defense.
Kent State Defense
Kent State’s defense runs exclusively out of the 3-3-5, sending a heavy amount of blitzes on 34% of snaps. The Golden Flashes send four rushers on 50% of blitz attempts, but a large portion of pressures come from sending five.
Central Michigan will be able to get anything short against a defense that will look to stop the explosive play.
Central Michigan Offense
An upset over Western Michigan in the initial iteration of midweek MACtion has catapulted the Chips into a race for the West Division.
Head coach Jim McElwain runs out of the 11 personnel on 70% of offensive snaps with a 69% tendency to attempt a pass, but it was the ground game of running back Lew Nichols III that sealed the win over Western Michigan.
Central Michigan Defense
Central Michigan is one of the most explosive offenses in the nation with a rank in the top 35 for both rush and pass expected points per attempt.
The real handicap in this game may come with the defense.
A top-40 pass rush highlights a front-seven unit that consistently plays in the opponent’s backfield. Central Michigan is sixth in the nation in tackles for loss per game.
An overall rank of 26th in Defensive Havoc will be in play against a Kent State team that middles in pass blocking.
Kent State vs. Central Michigan Betting Pick
The total is completely dependent on the tempo of the game, as both teams fall outside the top 100 in Defensive Finishing Drives. On the season, Kent State is allowing 3.6 points per scoring attempt to opponents, while Central Michigan’s defense is at 3.7 per opponent trip inside the 40-yard line.
If there’s a tiebreaker in predicting which offense may stumble, the Chippewas have the advantage in Havoc and tackling.
Central Michigan is top-20 in tackling, an important metric in stopping the explosive play. Conversely, Kent State has a defense that resides outside the top 100 in tackling.
Another fly in the Golden Flashes ointment is the Chips’ ability to stuff the run. Central Michigan ranks 11th in all of FBS in Stuff Rate, a measurement of stopping the run at or behind the line of scrimmage.
The Action Network projection makes Central Michigan -2 with a total of 72.5. There’s no value in the current market number of -3, but with tempo and lackluster defensive play, this is the live-trading game of the night.
A case could be made to take a position on Kent State pregame and look for the Chips live. The projected total is spot on with the market, but the Central Michigan defense and special teams outrank Kent State in numerous categories.
Look for the Chippewas to get additional stops and additional scores during Wednesday night MACtion.