Northern Illinois Football Game Preview: MAC Championship vs Buffalo Bulls


With apologies to Kris Kross, who will be the MAC Daddy or Daddy MAC come Friday night in Detroit? Will it be this 2018  Northern Illinois football team who claimed the Western division title, or the winner of the East division, Buffalo Bulls?

Both teams dominated their divisions so thoroughly that they were able to clinch their berth in Detroit rather early. That left them able to coast down the stretch and take their foot off the gas pedal. You can see this reflected in the results of their early and mid season conference games versus late in the league season.

So now the main question heading into this game is- who refocuses better and plays with a finer, sharper edge Friday night, NIU or Buffalo?

SPREAD: Northern Illinois Football +3 1/2

KICKOFF: Friday Nov 30, 6pm, CT, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

TV: ESPN2 Clay Matvick (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (color analyst) Paul Carcaterra (sidelines)

Northern Illinois Football MAC Title Game History

Date Opponent Score

Dec. 1, 2005 Akron L, 31-30

Dec. 3, 2010 Miami L, 26-21

Dec. 2, 2011 Ohio W, 23-20

Nov. 30, 2012 Kent State W, 44-37 (2OT)

Dec. 6, 2013 Bowling Green L, 47-27

Dec. 5, 2014 Bowling Green W, 51-17

Dec. 4, 2015 Bowling Green L, 34-14

Series History: 

NIU leads 11-1, with their only loss coming in the very first game in the series, Nov. 9, 1968 in DeKalb.


Northern Illinois Football Quick Synopsis:

Like last year’s version, this Northern Illinois football team wins by playing heavy defense, a decent running game and a just enough passing here and there to keep opposing defenders honest. The running game has enough variance and options that NIU can still overcome MAC defenses that choose to stack the box.

Tre Harbison leads the way with the rushing attack while Marcus Jones is second leading ground gainer. Quarterback Marcus Childers can make plays with his feet as well.

However, it’s a guy who used to be a ball-carrier, defensive end Sutton Smith, who is the true star of this Northern Illinois football team.

He’s got the whole package, but just needs to bulk up quite a bit and then he will become a guy who makes plays on Sundays. If he can find a way to be very disruptive, in two phases (defense and special teams) the Huskies should be able to pull off the minor upset in the motor city.

sutton smith

Prediction: Northern Illinois Football 21, Buffalo 19

A low scoring affair is what the Huskies want. The tempo and the pace might not be the most aesthetically pleasing kind of football, but it could be a winning hand to play. NIU defense is one of just four FBS teams who have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in any game this season.

The streak dates back 13 consecutive games, to the last time they played in this building, the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl. Look for that streak to keep going, and for the Huskies to pull off the upset. In case you’re late to the college football party this season, we can give the Cliff Notes version recap like this- it’s basically 2012 all over again here in the upper midwest.

Northern Illinois football is dominating the MAC. Northwestern is making school history. Notre Dame is undefeated and playing for the chance at a national championship. Illinois is dreadfully awful, with no light visible at the end of the tunnel. Ohio State is dominant, but overshadowed by off-the-field malfeasance. Michigan State is mediocre and boring. Michigan is solid, but ultimately very disappointing.

giant tire detroit

So now we turn the page to conference title game and then bowl season. Happy holidays Northern Illinois football fans.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to and Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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