The Northern Illinois Huskies shoot for a second straight conference title when they take on the upstart Golden Flashes of Kent State in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Not only is the conference championship on the line when these two teams face off, but the winner has a chance to play in a BCS bowl.
As of midweek, most sportsbooks tracked by OddsShark.com had Northern Illinois favored by five points; as of Wednesday morning, the Huskies had been bumped to minus-6.
NIU, after beating Ohio in the MAC Championship Game last year, only returned four starers on offense this season but was still expected to contend for the West Division title.
And in averaging 40 points per game, the Huskies rolled through their MAC schedule undefeated, capping off their regular season with a 49-7 victory over Eastern Michigan last Friday.
Northern Illinois has won its last 16 MAC games.
Kent State, meanwhile, returned 16 starters this season—eight on each side of the ball—from a team that finished on a 4-1 run last year. But most “experts” figured that the Flashes would finish somewhere in the middle of the East Division this season.
Instead, KSU went a perfect 8-0 in MAC play, winning three conference games outright as underdogs.
Kent State completed its best regular season in program history with a 28-6 drubbing of Ohio last Friday and has won 12 of its last 13 MAC games.
Kent State also, presumably, has broken a 40-year bowl drought. The last time that the Flashes played in a bowl game, Jack Lambert was playing linebacker for KSU in its loss to Tampa University in the 1972 Tangerine Bowl,.
Statistically speaking, Northern Illinois outgained opponents this season by an average of 118 yards per game and outrushed foes by 100 yards a game.
Kent State, meanwhile, was outgained by an average of eight yards a game this season but averaged 242 rushing yards per game compared to 128 yards for its opponents.
The Huskies' lone loss this season was an 18-17 decision against Iowa back in Week 1 while the Flashes' only defeat was a 47-14 downing to Kentucky in Week 2.
These two teams have been among the best in college football to bet on this season; the Flashes are 10-2 ATS, and the Huskies 9-2-1.
Northern Illinois has beaten KSU five consecutive times. Last year, the Huskies beat the Flashes 40-10, outgaining Kent State 344 to 64.
Free MAC Championship Game Pick: The Huskies have MAC Player of the Year Jordan Lynch at QB and a defense that got better as the season progressed. The Flashes have the MAC Coach of the Year in Darrell Hazell, two 1,000-yard rushers and a plus-20 turnover ratio. We'll give the points with NIU. (courtesy of PickShark.com)