- Buffalo and Northern Illinois kick off the start of MAC football this season on Wednesday night (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2)
- The Bulls return key starters on both sides of the ball and are 11.5-point favorites on the road
- Read below for complete analysis and picks on the game
The Pac-12 is this week’s biggest addition to the college football landscape, but that’s not the only conference kicking off for the first time this season.
The MAC’s six-game conference schedule begins on Wednesday night, where Buffalo takes on a Northern Illinois side that features a lot of new faces for second-year head coach Thomas Hammock. Last season, the Bulls finished fourth in the MAC’s East division, but did so with an 8-5 record, capped by a 31-9 Bahamas Bowl win over Charlotte.
Buffalo opened as an eight-point favorite, but bettors recognized the clear mismatch and that number has ballooned to 11.5 since then. Nearly all of the cash and tickets have been placed on the Bulls, and the train has left the station in terms of getting the best of the usual plays at this point.
That being said, there is still value to be found with some alternative bets.
Buffalo vs NIU Week 10 Odds
|Buffalo||-11.5 (-106)||-500||O 51.5 (-114)|
|Northern Illinois||+11.5 (-114)||+360||U 51.5 (-106)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on Nov. 3
Prepare for the Stampede
The only thing that appears to favor NIU in this one are the betting trends between the two teams. Last season, Buffalo was 1-4 on the road with the same record against the spread, while the same could be said for the Huskies’ 3-2 record at home and ATS.
These two didn’t play each other last season, but in their last three matchups, NIU went 3-0 and 2-1 ATS from 2016-18.
Of course, Hammock wasn’t coaching NIU in those games, and there is plenty to like about what returns to this year’s Buffalo team from 2019.
Yeah so…Jaret Patterson went off today:
2 MAC records 😦pic.twitter.com/82x99c1pH1
— Elite College Football (@EliteCollege_FB) November 29, 2019
The Bulls’ biggest strength is its offensive line. Guard Paul Nosworthy is the only notable loss from last year, which was one of the top pass-blocking groups in the nation. Buffalo’s line also graded out as a top-20 unit when it came to rushing successfully in standard and power running scenarios.
Behind that line, running back Jaret Patterson finished one yard shy of 1,800 last season and scored 19 touchdowns. He returns to the backfield along with junior quarterback Kyle Vantrease, who didn’t have to throw a ton last year, but rarely turned the ball over.
Buffalo’s defensive line also comes back with its two top pass-rushers, Taylor Riggins and Malcolm Koonce, who combined for 16.5 sacks and four forced fumbles last season. The Bulls were a top-20 defense in the red zone last season, top-25 defending against third down conversions, and fourth-best in the nation against the run.
Re-experience the 2019 season's biggest plays from the 👀of the guys who lived them.
— UB FOOTBALL VIDEO (@UBFootballVideo) April 17, 2020
Meanwhile, NIU was a bottom-third team in rush efficiency, and only has one tailback on its roster from last season: Rondarius Gregory, who only had nine carries for 43 yards. The Huskies’ defense was one of the worst in the country at getting off the field on third downs and three of the four players that had an interception on last year’s team are gone.
NIU’s rush defense was alright in predictable spots last season, but overall, finished just outside of the bottom-third of teams in cumulative totals.
The Best Bet
The likelihood that Buffalo runs NIU off the field and wins by at least two touchdowns seems high, but being 1.5 points between the key numbers of 10 and 13 is a generally unappealing play. The first half line on FanDuel is set at -6.5 for the Bulls, who should be ahead by a touchdown or more after two quarters.
In five of Buffalo’s final six games of last season – including its bowl game – the Bulls outscored each of their opponents by double-digits heading into halftime. Buffalo was up by eight at the half against Toledo in the outlier. Northern Illinois is just replacing too much to be competitive in this game, and the team total for Buffalo, set at 31.5 points, is also an attractive play.
The Pick(s): Buffalo first half -6.5 and/or Buffalo team total 31.5
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