CSJ MAC Championship Game Preview — Buffalo vs. Northern Illinois, How To Watch and Fearless Predictions

Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo
When: Friday, November 30, 7:00 PM EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
TV/Streaming: ESPN2 / WatchESPN

Northern Illinois Huskies (7-5, 6-2 MAC)

MAC West Division Champions
Location: DeKalb, Ill.
Enrollment: 13,454
Sagarin Rating: 77 (15 in G5)

Season Recap: Northern Illinois clinched the West Division title of the Mid-American Conference with a 6-2 record, which was one game ahead of Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo. The Huskies did, however, win its first six MAC conference games but have lost two in a row coming into this title match-up. Northern Illinois wins by playing great defense, a good running game and a uses just enough passing to keep opposing defenders honest.

Best Win: at BYU (7-6)

Worst Loss: vs. Miami (OH) 13-7)

Other key outcomes: at Western Michigan (L 28-21)

Courtesy of NIU Athletics

Key Player: DE Sutton Smith seems to find ways to be very disruptive, in two phases (defense and special teams) for the Huskies. He coming off one of the best days of his career at Western Michigan with a career best four sacks and five tackles for loss, as well as an 85-yard fumble return touchdown. Smith currently ranks fourth nationally in sacks (13.0) and sixth in tackles for loss (21.0) with four forced fumbles and three recoveries.

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB Tre Harbision has led NIU offensively with 950 rushing yards on 177 carries to average 5.4 yards per rush. He can become the Huskies’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Joel Bouagnon in 2015 and has five 100-yard games this year.

Buffalo Bulls (10-2, 7-1 MAC)

MAC East Division Champions
Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Enrollment: 29,850
Sagarin Rating: 76 (14 in G5)

Season Recap: Buffalo finished 7-1 in the MAC’s East Division, just ahead of Miami and Ohio, which both posted 6-2 records. The Bulls last won the MAC East Championship back in 2008, when it also won the whole conference. Buffalo’s 10 wins are the most in school history. The Bulls finished 7-1 in MAC play, which is their best record since joining the conference in 1999. UB’s previous best MAC record was 6-2 in 2013.

Best Win: at Temple (36-28)

Worst Loss: vs. Ohio (52-17)

Other key outcomes: vs. Army (L-42-13)

Courtesy of The Buffalo News

Key Player: RB Jaret Patterson is 44 yards shy of UB’s freshman rushing record. Aaron Leeper set the record of 917 yards in 2002. With a stout NIU defense, running the ball will be a key for the Bulls in this game.

Fantasy Bonus Baby: QB Tyree Jackson’s next touchdown pass will be his 26th of the season which would move him into solo second place in school history for touchdown passes in a season, breaking the tie with Drew Willy (2008). Joe Licata holds the school record with 29 in 2014. Look for Jackson to get this and be in position for the Bulls’ bowl game to break the record.

Fearless Forecast: In their most recent meeting last season, NIU went on the road and defeated Buffalo 14-13. The Huskies lead the overall series with the Bulls 11-1 with a 10-0 mark for NIU coming as MAC opponents. But Buffalo seems like the better team this year. With NIU coming off of two straight losses, look for the Bulls to win a tight, low scoring game. Buffalo 17, Northern Illinois 13