NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES (11-1)
vs. KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES (11-1)
MAC Championship Game - Detroit, MI
Kickoff: Friday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Northern Illinois -6.5, Total: 58
A pair of schools without a loss in conference play will clash for the MAC Championship Friday night when No. 19 Northern Illinois and No. 18 Kent State meet at Ford Field in Detroit.
Both teams are 8-0 in conference play with NIU going 6-2 ATS and KSU going 7-1 ATS. Since re-joining the MAC, the Huskies are 6-1 (SU and ATS) in seven meetings with the Flashes, winning 40-10 last year. Northern Illinois is playing in its third straight MAC Championship game, scoring the final 23 points in last yearís 23-20 win over Ohio. NIU QB Jordan Lynch has 39 total TD this season and a streak of 100+ rushing yards in 10 straight games. KSU has two 1,000-yard rushers, Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. Archer injured his ankle in last week's game, but is probable to play on Friday.
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Lynch has thrown for 16 touchdowns and just one interception over his past eight games, a span of 216 pass attempts. Although he played sparingly in last year's rout of Kent State, he was still able to rush for 46 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries (5.8 YPC) and complete 3-of-4 passes for 22 more yards. But Lynch won't be the only player carrying the football on Friday. Akeem Daniels ran for 112 yards and 4 TD on just 12 carries in last week's 49-7 blowout at Eastern Michigan, and needed only six carries to gain 58 yards against the Flashes last year. NIU's defense has been outstanding late in the year, holding four of the past six opponents to seven points or less. The Huskies' defensive line gets great pressure on the quarterback (2.8 sacks per game, T-14th in FBS) and has tallied 7.2 Tackles For Loss per game (16th in nation). This surge at the line of scrimmage has led to 21 forced turnovers in the past eight games.
Kent State was held to seven yards on 37 carries in the loss to Northern Illinois last year, but its rushing offense has been much improved this year, ranking 11th in the nation with 242 YPG. Not only does Archer have 1,337 yards on a crazy 9.7 YPC with 14 TD on the ground, but he's also KSU's top receiver with 458 yards and 4 TD. Durham has 1,176 yards (5.0 YPC) and 14 scores on the ground and is looking to redeem himself from his paltry 39 yards on 15 carries (2.6 YPC) against NIU as a freshman. The Flashes can't afford to trail in this game because they donít have a good enough quarterback to throw his way back into the football game. Senior Spencer Keith has just 11 TD and 7 INT in a dozen games, and averages a mere 125 passing YPG in the past eight games, failing to reach 200 passing yards in any of these games. His offensive line does a solid job protecting him (1.3 sacks allowed per game, T-29th in nation), which is vital against the Huskies D-Line. Kent State also boasts the best turnover margin in the entire country (+20), with an astounding 35 takeaways and just 15 giveaways. This ratio has helped make up for a subpar defense allowing 410 total YPG (75th in FBS), including 282 passing YPG, which is the 10th-most yards allowed through the air in the nation.