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2010 MAC Championship Game Pick
Miami (8-4, 7-1 MAC) vs. Northern Illinois (10-2, 8-0 MAC)
Friday, December 3, 2010 • 7:00 pm ET • Detroit, Mich. • Ford Field (65,000)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Rodney Gilmore (analyst)
Nick’s Pick: NIU 31 – Miami 24
Comment: The Huskies have not won the MAC since 1982 but based off of their end of year performance of just flat out crushing people, you have to believe that the 28-year old cold spell is coming to an end. Don’t count out Miami though; this is a very resilient team that will be well prepared for this contest.
Head Coach: Mike Haywood
Career: 9-15 (2nd year); at Miami University: 9-15 (2nd year)
Rush: RB RB Thomas Merriweather (138 att., 736 yds., 8 TDs)
Pass: QB QB Zac Dysert (343 att., 222 comp., 2,406 yds., 13 TDs)
Rec.: WR Armond Robinson (76 rec., 805 yds., 5 TDs)
Tackles: LB LB Evan Harris (81 tackles, 8.5 tfl, 1.0 sacks, 5 INT)
Sacks: LB Jerrell Wedge (79 tackles, 14.0 tfl, 3.5 sacks, 2 ff)
Int.: DB Dayone Nunley (47 tackles, 6.5 tfl, 4 INT)
Miami is the Nation’s Most Improved Team: With an 8-4 record during the regular season, Miami posted a seven-win improvement over last year, the best mark in the country. A total of 47 teams increased their win total from 2009 with six of those gaining at least four more victories.
Miami ’s Ranking in MAC Games: Miami improved its MAC record from 1-7 in 2009 to 7-1 in 2010, the best single-season improvement in the conference’s 64-year history. The reason for that improvement was on the defensive side of the ball where Miami allowed 90.7 fewer total yards and 15.5 fewer points per game. Turnover margin was a third category in which the RedHawks dramatically improved.
Road Worthy: Miami was victorious in all four of its Mid-American Conference road games—at Central Michigan (27-20), at Buffalo (21-9), at Bowling Green (24-21) and at Akron (19-14)—its longest streak since the end of the 2005 season. In those four MAC road games, Miami outgained its opponents, 385.5 yards to 301.0 yards. Its average winning margin in those four games was 6.8 points.
Northern Illinois University
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
Career: 127-72 (17th year) at Northern Illinois: 22-15 (3rd year)
Rush: RB RB Chad Spann (226 att., 1,239 yds., 20 TDs)
Pass: QB Chandler Harnish (238 att., 157 comp., 1,949 yards, 17 TDs)
Rec.: WR Willie Clark (34 rec., 444 yds., 6 TDs)
Tackles: LB Alex Kube (68 tackles, 3.0 tfl, 1 ff)
Sacks: DE Jake Coffman (32 tackles, 9.5 tfl, 4.0 sacks)
Int.: DB DB Tyrone Clark (62 tackles, 1.5 tfl, 0.5 sack, 4 INT)
Nine in a row: Northern Illinois enters the MAC Championship game riding a nine game winning streak, the school’s longest as an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program. The 2010 Huskies have not lost since Sept. 18 when they dropped a 28-22 decision to Illinois in Champaign, reeling off wins over Minnesota, Akron, Temple, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Toledo, Ball State and Eastern Michigan. The Huskies’ nine-game winning streak ties Coach Howard Fletcher’s 1965 squad which posted an undefeated 9-0 regular season before losing to North Dakota in the Mineral Water Bowl. That streak actually reached 11 games as NIU won its final two games in 1964 in addition to the perfect 1965 regular season. Northern Illinois started play in what is now Division I FBS football in 1969.
Ranked: After earning its ninth consecutive win and 10th victory of 2010, Northern Illinois entered both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches Top 25 rankings this week. Northern Illinois checked in at No. 24 in the Associated Press poll and is 23rd in the USA Today/ Coaches list. The Huskies are ranked by the coaches for the first time since Nov.7, 2004 when NIU spent two weeks in that ranking. The last time the Huskies were ranked in the AP Poll was Nov. 9, 2003 when NIU was 9-1. Northern Illinois was ranked as high as No. 12 that season after starting 7-0 with wins over Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State. The Huskies also achieved a BCS rating of No. 10 in 2003.
Perfection: Northern Illinois completed the first perfect (8-0) Mid-American Conference campaign in school history with its win at Eastern Michigan. In 25 seasons in the MAC, Northern Illinois had never gone undefeated in league play, including in the 1983 championship season when the Huskies were 8-1 versus MAC competition with a loss to Central Michigan.
Never Before: The 2010 Northern Illinois team is bidding to become the first team in school history to win 11 games in a single season. The win over Eastern Michigan matched the 10-win seasons posted by the 2003, 1983 and 1963 Huskie teams.