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September 22, 2018

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Countdown to college football: Picking every team’s win total, part 2

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Toledo Rockets cornerback Josh Teachey (8) reacts after making a defensive stop against the Akron Zips during the first quarter in the Mid-American Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Detroit. Toledo defeated Akron 45-28.

Go ahead and count on the final week of October cueing a celebration of sorts for college football bettors.

Week 10 of the upcoming season will be the first time that there are games every night from Tuesday to Saturday. That schedule will repeat weekly for the final month of the season.

And it’s all thanks to the otherwise overlooked Mid-American Conference.

“MACtion”, as fans have increasingly called the league’s mid-week games, are hits at sports books — probably for the bookmakers as much as the bettors. The games draw a lot of money from gamblers who would typically neither watch nor wager on the MAC.

Don’t be among the misinformed when Tuesday Oct. 30 rolls around with Kent State traveling to Bowling Green, and Miami (Ohio) playing at Buffalo. Bankrolls can be boosted by paying closer attention to the MAC throughout the year.

Talking Points hopes to help with a head start, as the MAC is the second part of the blog’s ongoing series picking every Football Bowl Subdivision over/under.

Read below for picks on every MAC team separated into three confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses — and check out part 1, the Mountain West, here.

Ball State

over/under: 4 wins (Even, minus-130)

Last Year: 2-10 straight-up, 4-8 against the spread

The Cardinals were minutes away from starting last season 3-0 — and then the injuries struck. No team in the nation might have suffered more injuries in 2017 than Ball State. They had to dig so deep into their depth chart that they’re now one of the MAC’s most experienced teams coming into this year, where it will be impossible to suffer as much bad fortune.

Play: Over 4 wins at Even money

Central Michigan

over/under: 4.5 wins (minus-115, minus-115)

Last Year: 8-5 straight-up, 7-6 against the spread

Central Michigan went an unsustainable 4-0 in games decided by less than a touchdown, helping them reach eight wins for the first time in eight years despite only outscoring opponents by 12 points on the season. Those are factors pointing downwards before even considering the Chippewas return a conference-low 10 starters.

Play: Under 4.5 wins at minus-115

Eastern Michigan

over/under: 5.5 wins (minus-200, plus-160)

Last Year: 5-7 straight-up, 8-4 against the spread

There’s a lot to like about Eastern Michigan. Chris Creighton is a highly underrated coach after turning what was the nation’s most moribund program towards respectability with a combined 12-13 straight-up, 18-7 against the spread record the last two years. The Eagles have a mammoth and mauling offensive line of mostly seniors. And yet, betting action has steamed the price on the over up to an unplayable price — especially considering Eastern Michigan has a quietly difficult schedule to start the year.

Guess: Under 5.5 wins at plus-160

Northern Illinois

over/under: 6.5 wins (minus-115, minus-115)

Last Year: 8-5 straight-up, 6-7 against the spread

Northern Illinois has gone an incredible 68-18 straight-up, 49-37 against the spread against MAC opposition over the last decade. With a high-ceiling offense and pressure-heavy defense, there’s no reason to think the Huskies can’t run over their rivals yet again in 2018. The only tricky part will be coming out of playing Iowa, Utah and Florida State in a four-week stretch at the start of the season intact.

Guess: Over 6.5 wins at minus-115

Toledo

over/under: 8 wins (minus-105, minus-125)

Last Year: 11-3 straight-up, 7-7 against the spread

Despite Northern Illinois’ prolonged run at the top of the MAC, Toledo has actually been the conference’s best team over the last half-decade. That’s enabled the program to recruit at a higher level, which should help replace a glut of key contributors to last year’s MAC championship team. The Rockets face the unenviable task of having to play at Northern Illinois in the biggest MAC game of the year — on Wednesday Nov. 7 — but have an otherwise manageable schedule.

Lean: Over 8 wins at minus-105

Western Michigan

over/under: 6.5 wins (minus-115, minus-115)

Last Year: 6-6 straight-up, 5-7 against the spread

Speaking of recruiting at a higher level, former coach P.J. Fleck left behind plenty of talent in Kalmazoo, Mich. That should help the Broncos avoid a major fall-off for the second straight year with standouts like quarterback Jon Wassink and receiver D’Wayne Eskridge. But they also have major defensive questions, with a lot of turnover in the secondary and linebacking corps. A second straight 6-6 finish looks like the most likely scenario.

Guess: Under 6.5 wins at minus-115

Akron

over/under: 4.5 wins (plus-120, minus-150)

Last Year: 7-7 straight-up, 9-5 against the spread

Akron was one of the worst division champions in college football history last year, which became painfully obvious when it lost by a combined 64 points in the MAC Championship Game against Toledo and Boca Raton Bowl versus Florida Atlantic. The Zips somehow had a winning regular-season record despite getting outscored by 18 points on the year. A course correction should be in the cards this year.

Play: Under 4.5 wins at minus-150

Bowling Green

over/under: 4.5 wins (minus-105, minus-125)

Last Year: 2-10 straight-up, 3-9 against the spread

The MAC’s East Division looks rough, with the odds indicating that Ohio will be the only strong team. There are too many wins to go around for someone else not to emerge, though. Why not the Falcons? They improved by the end of last year, and are flush with experience — especially at the skill positions where quarterback Jarret Doege and running back Andrew Clair could make a leap.

Play: Over 4.5 wins at minus-105

Buffalo

over/under: 6.5 wins (minus-140, plus-110)

Last Year: 6-6 straight-up, 9-3 against the spread

Many are penciling Buffalo in for the aforementioned up-for-grabs wins in the East Division. The Bulls return most of last year’s team that certainly looked better than their 6-6 record, considering three of their losses came by a total of six points. A major hurdle will be performing better on the road, where they’re just 5-13 straight-up, 6-12 against the spread under coach Lance Leipold.

Guess: Under 6.5 wins at plus-110

Kent State

over/under: 2.5 wins (plus-110, minus-140)

Last Year: 2-10 straight-up, 4-8 against the spread

New coach Sean Lewis has breathed someone rare excitement into the program, as he transitions the Golden Flashes to the uptempo offense he learned under the tutelage of current Syracuse coach Dino Babers. Increasing the number of plays may put the talent-deficient Golden Flashes at a disadvantage this year but should pay dividends in the long run. The bar is set so low at 2.5 wins that it’s worth gambling that some of Lewis’ changes start to coalesce at the end of the season.

Guess: Over 2.5 wins at plus-110

Miami (Ohio)

over/under: 6.5 wins (plus-110, minus-140)

Last Year: 5-7 straight-up, 3-9 against the spread

Miami might have the MAC’s best linebacking duo in Brad Koenig and Junior McMullen. Not to mention a fierce pass-rushing pair in Quinn Calcagno and Doug Costin. The offense is similarly stacked with upperclassmen in the two deep. If the Red Hawks are going to take a leap and put together their first winning season since 2010, this is the year.

Lean: Over 6.5 wins at plus-110

Ohio

over/under: 8.5 wins (plus-115, minus-145)

Last Year: 9-4 straight-up, 9-4 against the spread

Fifty years. That’s how long it’s been since the Bobcats won the MAC, despite coach Frank Solich having turned the program into a paragon of consistency since he arrived in Athens, Ohio, in 2005. The schedule gives them a significant chance to crack the streak in a milestone year, as there’s not a single game where Ohio should be more than a 4-point underdog. A young defense that ends up disappointing — which would be atypical for a Solich team — could be the only hindrance.

Guess: Over 8.5 wins at plus-115

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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