Northern Illinois has faced 5 top 76 teams compared to Toledo's 2. They both fared similarly against Eastern Michigan at home, and overall I would say these two teams are about even with their strengths and weaknesses. I'd say the biggest advantage in this game is Northern Illinois rushing offense against Toledo's rushing defense which ranks 104th. Northern Illinois has been able to run the ball much better since Freshman QB Marcus Childers has taken over and he's only getting better. Childers just had a good game passing the ball as well against Eastern Michigan who ranked #32 vs. the pass. The advantage that Toledo has in this game is certainly with their special teams that ranks 7th compared to Northern Illinois at 116. However, Carey is a good coach and I think he'll be looking hard at that this week.
Northern Illinois is not as skilled on offense as Toledo who can run and pass the ball, but their defense and rushing offense should control this game. Northern Illinois defense ranks #6 vs. the run and they have faced an average opponent ranking 87th. However, against Boston College, Nebraska and San Diego State they only allowed 293 yards and 2.23 ypc. They actually played up to their competition and I expect them to step up against Toledo. Now there is no question neither one of those teams has a Logan Woodside at QB 19TD/2INT's on the season so let's look at that.
Woodside has actually gotten the majority of those stats against defenses ranking 127, 126, 77th, 119 16 TD/ 2INT. Against passing defenses in the same caliber as Northern Illinois (13, 32, 15), Northern Illinois ranks #22. He completing 60.7% of his passes 240 yards per game, 3 total TD's 0 INT's. Northern Illinois can actually get to the QB much like Miami as they rank 19th in the country in sack %. I expect Woodside to put up a lot of yards like he has against quality defenses, but struggle in the red zone. It's worth noting he just lost his top target Cody Thompson in the last game for the season and this offense has only scored TD's 50% of the time in the red zone. Northern Illinois defense is allowing only 33% TD percentage in the red zone. Compare it with Northern Illinois 58% on offense, and Toledo's alarming 80.95% TD's allowed in the red zone. Northern Illinois is also top 25 in big plays allowed.
The only reason Toledo is favored here is because their only loss is against Miami, but they were blown out in that game. Miami has played a lot of close games this year so that loss is a little more alarming. Northern Illinois dominated their game on the road against San Diego State doubling them in yardage, but lost the game. They lost by 3 to open the season against Boston College and are a play or two away from being undefeated and if that were the case we would have a +3 spread here. Bottom line I think the coaching advantage is on Northern Illinois side. Candle has done a great job with Toledo, but it's been against a weak schedule. Northern Illinois has actually dominated this match-up. They lost by 7 last year in a down year, but had won 6 straight previously. This will be a close game and come down to the wire with Northern Illinois having a chance to pull the outright upset! The weather also favors Northern Illinois as it's supposed to have a chance of rain and 10-15mph winds. Northern Illinois has the more mobile QB, and the better defense here getting 8.5 points is a bargain when you consider bad weather wind+rain will lead to lower scores.
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