Many casual gamblers don’t get into MACtion until after the World Series in November when ESPN2 and ESPNU throw MAC contests at us in doubleheader fashion every Tuesday and Wednesday. Most bettors are playing many of those games, although many rarely have the MAC on their radar when they’re playing on Saturdays in September and October.
On that note, we thought we’d get you upated on what’s going down in this league before the calendar strikes November.
Before doing so, let me point out this (meaningless?) factoid that I found surprising, especially when considering how many shootouts we get in often frigid weather conditions in November MAC games. Every single game involving a MAC team — and none had an open date in Week 5 — went ‘under’ this past Saturday.
–Western Michigan (4-1 straight up, 3-1-1 against the spread) appears to be the class of the MAC through five weeks of play. Since losing 47-14 at still-unbeaten Michigan in Week 1, the Broncos have won four in a row while going 3-0-1 ATS. They captured a 24-17 win at Buffalo this past Saturday as seven-point road favorites. The 41 combined points points fell ‘under’ the 59-point total to improve to 4-1 overall. Third-year sophomore QB Kaleb Eleby enjoyed another excellent performance, completing 21-of-33 passes for 279 yards and two TDs without an interception. Eleby, a third-team All-MAC selection in 2020, has connected on 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,181 yards and nine TDs passes without an interception. In the last two seasons, Eleby has 27 TD passes compared to merely two interceptions. He has a 31/4 career TD-INT ratio. The Broncos have a 44-41 win at Pitt on their resume, and they also beat last year’s Mtn. West champs, San Jose St., by a 23-3 count at home in Week 4. WMU hosts Ball St. this Saturday.
–Speaking of the Cardinals, they’ve been the MAC’s biggest disappointment. Ball St. won seven games in a row after losing last year’s opener, including a 38-28 win over Buffalo as a 13-point underdog in the 2020 MAC Championship Game. Mike Neu’s team returned 19 of 22 starters and added a pair of Power-Five transfers from out of the portal. However, the Cardinals lost three in a row both SU and ATS after winning their opener 31-21 at home vs. Western Illinois. They were 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS going into this past Saturday’s home game vs. previously-undefeated Army as 10-point underdogs. Ball St. put together its best performance of the season and handed the Black Knights their first loss in a 28-16 upset victory. QB Drew Plitt threw for 233 yards and two TDs without an interception.
–Chuck Martin’s Miami (OH.) squad was limited to three games last year, going 2-1 both SU and ATS. The RedHawks were the only team to beat eventual MAC champion, Ball St., winning a 38-31 decision as one-point home favorites. Martin’s team won its league opener Saturday by dropping Central Michigan 28-17 as a 2.5-point home underdog. The RedHawks improved to 2-3 both SU and ATS. They are unbeaten at home, knocking off Long Island 42-7 in their home opener. Miami (OH.) lost 49-14 at Cincinnati in its opener, easily covered as an 18.5-point road underdog in a 31-26 loss at Minnesota and also lost 23-10 at Army. The ‘under’ has cashed in three straight for the RedHawks. They are at Eastern Michigan in Week 6.
–Ohio went 0-4 both SU and ATS in its first four games since former Nebraska HC Frank Solich ended his 17-year tenure by retiring in early August. The Bobcats lost by 20 at Syracuse, by 28 at Louisiana, by 29 at Northwestern and dropped a 28-26 decision at home to Duquesne as 28.5-point ‘chalk.’ They’re 1-0 in MAC play, however, after winning 34-17 at Akron as 10-point road favorites. The Bobcats host CMU for Homecoming this weekend.
–After back-to-back losses to Eastern Michigan that was preceded by an 11-game winning streak over the Eagles, No. Illinois avoided its first three-game losing streak to EMU since 1954-56 by downing the Eagles 27-20 in a pick ’em affair. The Huskies improved to 3-2 SU and 3-1-1 ATS going into Saturday’s road assignment at Toledo.
–With the game closing at pick ’em at most spots, Eastern Michigan’s non-cover didn’t count against its stellar ATS underdog stats. The Eagles are 20-4 ATS in their last 24 games as road underdogs. They fell to 3-2 SU and 1-4 ATS in the loss at NIU. A pick-six, the only interception thrown so far this season by EMU QB Ben Bryant, a transfer from Cincinnati, was the Eagles’ undoing in a game in which they had more yards than the Huskies. Before winning the two previous meetings against NIU, EMU lost three straight to the Huskies in overtime.
–Speaking of the Rockets, they’re 3-2 both SU and ATS after completing their non-conference slate with a 45-7 home win over UMass as 27-point ‘chalk.’ Fourth-year junior RB Bryant Koback ran for 82 yards and two TDs on 11 attempts. For the season, Koback has 364 rushing yards, four TDs and a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. The fourth-team All-MAC selection last year has 2,990 career rushing yards, 34 TDs and a 5.5 YPC average. He has 49 career receptions for 420 yards and five TDs. Toledo won 22-12 at Ball St. in its league opener last week, taking the cash as a 4.5-point road favorite. The Rockets nearly pulled an upset at Notre Dame in Week 2, losing 32-29 as 16.5-point road underdogs. Unfortunately, they were flat the following week, losing 22-6 at home to Colorado St. as 14.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Toledo hosts NIU for Homecoming on Saturday. The Rockets have seen the ‘under’ cash in three consecutive contests. They’ve lost eight of their last 11 to the Huskies.
–Kent St. (2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS) played a brutal non-conference slate, losing 41-10 at Texas A&M, 30-7 at Iowa and 37-16 at Maryland. The Golden Flashes beat VMI 60-10 for their lone outright victory and spread cover going into this past Saturday’s league opener vs. surprising Bowling Green. They got an 11-yard TD run from senior QB Dustin Crum with 6:03 left to lift them to a 27-20 win as 17-point home ‘chalk.’ Crum had 93 rushing yards and one TD on 12 attempts. He has three TD passes without an interception since getting picked off twice by the Aggies in the opener in College Station. Crum has a 35/6 TD-INT ratio and 12 rushing TDs since the start of the 2018 campaign. The ‘under’ is 5-0 for the Golden Flashes, who host Buffalo on Saturday.
–Bowling Green (2-3 SU, 5-0 ATS) is the nation’s only team with a 5-0 spread record. The Falcons are one of only three teams — Kent St. and Purdue being the others — that have seen the ‘under’ go 5-0. They won outright at Minnesota last week by a 14-10 count as 27.5-point road underdogs in Week 4. FanDuel was the lone book that posted money-line odds, with Scot Loeffler’s squad hooking up ML-supporters with a 15/1 return. The Falcons allowed 45.0 PPG while going 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS last season. This year they’re ranked No. 45 nationally in scoring ‘D,’ limiting foes to 21.4 PPG under new DC Eric Lewis. Guess who Lewis replaced? Former Georgia, Louisville, Auburn and Notre Dame DC Brian VanGorder, who also served as the Atlanta Falcons DC from 2008-2011 and was one and done as a head coach at Ga. Southern in 2006. VanGorder is now the head coach at Gulf Shores High School in South Alabama near Pensacola, FL., and Biloxi, MS. The Falcons host Akron on Saturday.
–The Zips are 1-4 both SU and ATS. They’re 2-21 SU and 4-19 ATS during Tom Arth’s three-year tenure. Akron’s only win over an FBS team on Arth’s watch came in a 31-3 victory over Bowling Green as a 2.5-point home favorite last season. The Zips beat Bryant, an FCS school, by a 35-14 score in Week 3.