MAC Championship Odds & Picks: How to Bet Buffalo vs. Ball State (Friday, Dec. 18)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Jaret Patterson.
- This is what we've all been waiting for: Championship MACtion.
- The Ball State Cardinals and Buffalo Bulls will battle for one of the most coveted titles in gambling on Friday night.
- Collin Wilson breaks down the game below and shares a betting pick for the most important MACtion game of the season.
Buffalo vs. Ball State Odds
|Buffalo Odds||-13 [BET NOW]|
|Ball State Odds||+13 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-455 / +320 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||67.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
Ford Field in Detroit will once again serve as the backdrop for the MAC Championship game.
For a second consecutive year, Western Michigan lost its final game in excruciating fashion to send another team as the West Division representative. Ball State trailed by 14 heading into the fourth quarter but connected on a 23-yard field goal to seal up the division. The game was not without drama as the Cardinals survived a flurry of late laterals.
Both teams ran onto the field before the play was ruled dead as Western Michigan attempted a last second TD.
Ball State went on to win the game and division title after the Broncos were penalized for an illegal forward pass. pic.twitter.com/yzjVTBgJ5b
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 12, 2020
Ball State has competed in the MAC Championship just once, a 2008 loss to Buffalo.
The Bulls won the East Division without much resistance. Buffalo finished the season 5-0 with a point differential of +154. Running back Jaret Patterson finished the season eighth in total rushing yards but holds a higher yards per carry than any other FBS player in the top 50.
The Bulls are 1-1 in Detroit when competing for the title, a victory over Ball State in 2008 and a loss to Northern Illinois in 2018.
The Bulls ended their regular season with a dominant performance over Akron, easily covering the 33-point spread. Quarterback Kyle Vantrease threw just seven passes, connecting on one for a touchdown.
The story for Buffalo was the same as it has been throughout its perfect season: Nobody can stop Patterson.
Jaret Patterson cutbacks >>>> pic.twitter.com/q5EPl1qvaP
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 12, 2020
Patterson has been the real-life definition of running Barry Sanders in Nintendo’s Super Tecmo Bowl. The Buffalo running back is second in the nation in elusiveness, per Pro Football Focus. Not only are defenders having issues getting hands on Patterson, but the junior also has the highest yards after contact of any running back in the nation at 5.19 per attempt.
While the offense gets most of the praise, the Buffalo defense has stepped in to do enough to get the Bulls to 4-1 against the spread on the season. Ranks of 10th in Defensive Passing Success Rate and 35th in pass coverage will limit opposing air attacks. The numbers in the trench have not been good against the run, though, as the team ranks 82nd in Line Yards and 117th in Stuff Rate.
An opening loss to Miami (OH) made Ball State’s chances of winning the MAC West look bleak. The Cardinals won the box score in total yards, third-down conversions and Success Rate against the RedHawks.
A three-game stretch to end the season included wins over perennial West powers Toledo, Central Michigan and Western Michigan, which proves Ball State earned its spot.
— #MACtion (@MACSports) December 12, 2020
The offense has a 57% tendency toward the rush with a Success Rate rank of 32nd in standard downs. The issue with successful runs in early down and distance situations is that there is no explosiveness, as the Cardinals have a rank of 126th in standard downs explosiveness. The real showcase of the offense is passing downs, where they boast a Success Rate that ranks 15th and an expected points rank of 16th.
The defense has failed to stop a schedule of explosive offenses in the West Division. Ball State is outside the top 100 in defensive Rush and Passing Success Rate with a coverage rank of 71st.
The Cardinals have been top-30 in defending explosive plays but cannot get teams off the field, holding a rank of 108th in opponent first downs per game.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The handicap in this game started with stopping how Ball State is going to stop Patterson.
There are areas to nitpick on Buffalo, which owns ranks of 123rd in special teams and 80th in tackling. The special teams rating derives from a number of factors, including Buffalo missing just one field goal attempt this season. The Bulls have allowed opponents great position to start possessions, ranking 122nd in average starting field position differential.
Also troubling for Buffalo is a strength of schedule that sits at 140th, per Sagarin. In five regular-season games, no single opponent ranks inside the top 100, as Ball State would be Buffalo’s highest-ranked opponent.
All that said about where there could be holes in Buffalo, the job of stopping Patterson may prove to be too much for the Cardinals.
Ball State vs. Buffalo Matchup Matrix
The Action Network projection for the MAC Championship comes in at a full touchdown less than the current market.
There are reasons for the Buffalo steam, primarily on standard downs. The biggest contrast in this game is on standard downs, where the Bulls are first in the nation offensively, and the Cardinals are 121st defensively. The Buffalo offense may average more than seven yards per attempt in standard downs, which could mean a Vantrease passing attempts mark in the single digits.
Ball State has similar advantages in passing downs, but the Buffalo defense may be up to the task. During passing downs, the Cardinals are 15th in Success Rate and 16th in explosiveness, but the Bulls will be suited to handle those downs with ranks of 15th in Success Rate and ninth against explosiveness.
That’s where the strength of schedule comes into play. Buffalo has yet to face an offense as capable as Ball State.
Look for Patterson to dominate with an offense that is the best in the nation in finishing drives. In 21 red-zone trips this season, Buffalo has converted 20 for touchdowns.
Ball State will be sure to amp up the pace once down by two possessions, as the Cardinals are ninth in the country in seconds per play. The point spread is inflated and calls for small volume when Ball State gets to +14. The bigger wagers on the game should come on a full game over and Buffalo team total.
Picks: Buffalo TT Over 39.5 | Over 66 | Ball State +14 or better.