• Paul Compton

Northern Illinois @ Toledo -- Tuesday Night MACtion

Going to kick things off with a write up for the Tuesday night game. I'll post my lines & plays together on my cheat sheet on Thursday. Northern Illinois @ Toledo Tuesday night MACtion is fun...but frequently unpredictable, as those who've tried to win betting on these mid-week games can attest to. Time to crunch the numbers, and look deeper inside them than usual, too (building some new metrics and am using them to analyze this game). Home team Toledo opened the season with two close, impressive P5 wins against Arkansas and Iowa State. Since then they've been on a G5 tear, tearing up these opponents by an average of 26.8 points. Toledo has certainly faced the softer part of its' schedule in its' last five games -- is NIU going to be a big step up in quality? Where Toledo narrowly beat its' two P5 opponents, Northern Illinois narrowly lost to both of theirs, but they faced tougher defenses in those games against Ohio State and Boston College. NIU is the only team to allow BC more than 200 rushing yards this year, though they held BC to pretty near their season average in yards per carry. Defensively they did a good job against Ohio State. Toledo should have a decent game running the ball, though NIU has done a good job defending the run against teams as good or better than Toledo. Toledo has been better running the ball when Kareem Hunt has played -- he missed a few early games. Kareem, though, is just part of a 4-headed rushing attack monster that features 4 backs who average over 5 yards per carry. That's somebody fresh going for 5+ all game long. It looks like NIU has had some vulnerability defending the pass against teams in which they may have game planned stopping the run (BC and Ball State), but they've done well defending the pass against pass heavy or balanced offenses. Last year Toledo only passed the ball on 38% of downs in games in which they either led or trailed by a score or less after three quarters. If memory serves they dealt with many QB injuries last year. This year with a healthy Phillip Ely Toledo is passing the ball a lot more, even in games with comfortable second half leads. NIU has had only one exceptional game running the ball, and that came a couple of games ago on the road at Miami of Ohio, a team with a bottom 30 run defense. Against the 2nd worst run defense of EMU they averaged 1.3 yards less per carry than EMU usually allows. Against the three teams ranked 74th or better at run defense that NIU has played they've only averaged 2.8 ypc. Toledo ranks 30th. There's ample evidence that NIU will have a tough day on the ground in this game. Throwing the ball NIU has had two really good games against two bottom 30 pass defenses...and that is it. Against the only three better than average pass defenses NIU has faced (ranked 9th, 33rd and 37th), they were absolutely horrible throwing the ball, averaging only 3.1 yards per pass in those three games. Against the much softer pass defenses they've played since they've fared better, but still threw for a smaller ypp average than 2 of their 3 opponents usually allow. Unfortunately for NIU Toledo has my 46nd ranked pass defense. NIU hasn't had a game this year where they've excelled at both running and passing the football, and they've played five FBS teams with weaker defenses than Toledo -- some of them much weaker. Home/Away splits haven't affected their run offense numbers, but when passing they've been much, much worse on the road (the games against Ohio State and Boston College hurt those numbers, but still only 3.5 ypp against Central Michigan!) All in all, it looks like NIU is in for a tough night offensively at Toledo. Toledo shouldn't light up the scoreboard either, but with a more balanced offense this year it should keep NIU from cheating against the run. If NIU does cheat, Toledo will find more success through the air then they rate to have. I recommended an investment on Toledo -7 when the line opened, and still think it's worth it all the way up to -10. I also like the Under for a small play. Both teams do play at an above average speed of pace on offense, but defensive advantages in the match ups should limit the scoring. Final score prediction: NIU 20 -- Toledo 36

#MAC #Toledo #NorthernIllinois