Photo Credit: Boise State
Buffalo Bulls vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
Spread: Buffalo Bulls -4
The Buffalo Bulls stand at the top of the Mid-American Conference East with an impressive 10-2 record. Throughout the season they have proven themselves as a team with a high powered offense and a decent defense that can stifle mediocre offenses. They have impressive wins over a good Temple team, who beat Cincinnati, and a shootout win over Miami (Ohio), who beat Northern Illinois in a low scoring, defensive battle. However, the Bulls got their throats absolutely stomped on by Ohio University, who came second to them in the MAC East.
On the other side of the ball, Northern Illinois finished the regular season at first in the MAC West with a 7-5 record. NIU had a solid 24-21 win over Ohio University, as well as a blowout win over 7-5 Toledo. They stumbled at the end of the year with the loss to Miami and a 28-21 loss to Western Michigan.
Buffalo’s offense is capable of overpowering NIU’s defense, however, it will not put up huge numbers. NIU’s offense is not going to be able to score enough to keep up with Buffalo.
Prediction: Buffalo 27-NIU 20
Conference USA Championship
University of Alabama-Birmingham vs. Middle Tennessee State University
Spread: MTSU Blue Raiders -2.5
At 8-4, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders sit atop the Conference USA East. In conference, the Blue Raiders were 7-1 with its one loss coming against Florida International who ended up second in the Conference USA East. The Blue Raiders allowed a field goal and a touchdown in the fourth quarter that secured the game for Florida International at 24-21. The Blue Raiders had an average offense throughout the year, as well as an okay defense. That, combined with a weak conference allowed them to breeze to the top of the conference. They struggled outside the conference with big losses to Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Kentucky.
The University of Alabama-Birmingham DID NOT HAVE A FOOTBALL TEAM just two years ago. This year they have solidified themselves as a legitimate contender for a low-level bowl game. They ended with a 9-3 record, albeit they had a wildly easy schedule with the exception of Texas A&M. For the most part, they manhandled their opponents, holding six of their opponents to single digits. Their defense was clearly the star for most of the year, with the offense doing enough to give them comfortable leads. They had three games where everything seemed to fall apart, a 47-24 loss to a below average Coastal Carolina team, an understandable 41-20 loss to Texas A&M, and the most pertinent, a 27-3 loss to Middle Tennessee State.
Let’s recap that game. UAB had 89 yards. 89 yards. Not in the first quarter, not in the first half, IN THE WHOLE GAME. I know that teams have had similar performance, but this is a 9-3 team who is at the top of their conference. It makes absolutely zero sense. MTSU does not have a terrible defense, but they let University of Texas El Paso hang 32 on them. However, UAB had to be absolutely ashamed to have played that game and are going to be looking for revenge in the huge battle that is the Conference USA championship game.
I think that UAB is going to come out hot and take down Middle Tennessee State in a defensive showdown.
Prediction: UAB 17-MTSU 14
Mountain West Championship
Boise State vs. Fresno State
Spread: Boise State -2.5
Boise State tops the Mountain West Mountain Division at 10-2 following a rather successful year. They started the season with a 56-20 win over Troy who was one win away from playing in the Sun Belt Conference Championship. They followed that with an absolute curb-stomping of UConn, who admittedly sucks, at 62-7. The Broncos did lose big to an Oklahoma State team who was actually good at the time, they have since become garbage. They also lost to a not very good San Diego State team at home. Since then they have not lost a game.
Fresno State also finished 10-2 and they topped the Mountain West West Division at the end of the regular season. Their offense is solid, but their defense is for real. Only three teams have scored more than 20 points on them this season, one was in a big win over Toledo, the second was to Minnesota, and the third was in a loss to Boise State. Fresno State beat the life out of most of the teams that they played, including a 79-13 win over Idaho. (I know Idaho is bad, but 79 points is nuts.) Fresno State’s loss to Minnesota was early in the season and they have improved since then.
Boise State’s offense has been rolling during the second half of the season and I do not expect that to stop against Fresno State. However, I do expect Fresno State to keep up pretty well. In the end, I am taking Boise State because I could never bet against that beautiful, blue turf that they have there.
Prediction: Boise State 35-Fresno State 31