A wild and unpredictable 2017 regular season in the MAC will take another turn on Black Friday when the Toledo Rockets host the Western Michigan Broncos and the Central Michigan Chippewas host the Northern Illinois Huskies.
Both games will have MAC Championship implications, but the situation is clear for the Rockets who sit at 9-2 overall and 6-1 in MAC play. If Toledo defeats the 6-5 overall and 4-3 in MAC play Western Michigan Broncos on Friday, the Rockets will play in the MAC Championship game as the West Division representative.
Northern Illinois has a lot to play for Friday as well and if the Huskies, sitting at 8-3 overall and 6-1 in MAC play, defeat the 7-4 overall and 5-2 in MAC play Central Michigan Chippewas plus a Toledo loss to Western Michigan, Northern Illinois will play in the MAC Championship game.
Toledo and Western Michigan have a long football history together with the Rockets holding a 41-30 all-time series lead, but the Broncos have won each of the last two games in the series.
The same can be said for Northern Illinois and Central Michigan and their long history together with the Chippewas holding a 28-23-1 all-time series lead over the Huskies including having won three straight in the series.
The odds favor Toledo against Western Michigan with the Rockets currently sitting as 13.5-point favorites over the Broncos and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Toledo a 73.3 percent chance of getting a win over Western Michigan.
The odds are not nearly as emphatic for Northern Illinois’ battle with Central Michigan and the Huskies currently sit as 3-point favorites over the Chippewas and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Northern Illinois a 55.7 percent chance of getting the road win.
A key matchup to look for in Toledo’s showdown with Western Michigan will be which defense can perform better. Both of these teams average at least 36.5 points-per-game on the season and give up an average of at least 26.8 points-per-game, so whichever team can make enough stops to prevent a possible shootout should have the best odds at getting a win.
A key matchup to look for in Northern Illinois at Central Michigan will be the Huskies’ ability to limit the Chippewas’ passing attack. Central Michigan’s Shane Morris has thrown for 2,661 passing yards on the season with 23 touchdowns, so if Northern Illinois hopes to get the road win, it will have to limit Morris and the passing game.
These two games will determine which team comes out the West to battle either the Ohio Bobcats or the Akron Zips in the MAC Championship game. The situation is simple for Toledo, win and you’re in.
But if Western Michigan can upset the Rockets, that opens the door for Northern Illinois who needs a win over Central Michigan to keep its championship hopes alive. The MAC’s unpredictability knows no bounds and on Black Friday, another chapter could be written.
Toledo and Western Michigan kickoff at 11:30 a.m. EST Friday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio and the game will be televised by ESPNU. Northern Illinois and Central Michigan kickoff at 12 p.m. EST Friday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and the game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.