Early Analysis: Toledo vs. Northern Illinois

Toledo at Northern Illinois
Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., ESPN 2
Line: Northern Illinois -10.5

Get ready for some meaningful MACtion tonight, with the MAC West Division lead on the line. Northern Illinois looks to remain undefeated in MAC play and clinch a spot in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit. If they can hold off division rival Toledo they will make a third straight trip to the conference championship game. A Toledo win will give the Rockets the inside track to Detroit with just one game remaining, at home next week against hapless Akron.

For Toledo to win: Control the tempo of the game with the run. Northern Illinois does not give up much on the scoreboard, and they bring an offense capable of scoring in a hurry. In order for Toledo to come away with a victory they will need to keep the Huskies offense off the field, and the best way to do that would be to have an effective running game. The Rockets have rushed for 200 or more yards each of their last four games, rushing for 311 yards against Ball State last week in a losing effort.

David Fluellen has rushed for 1,381 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and will be the player looked to to keep things going in working the clock tonight. He enters the night tied for second in the nation in rushing and is a Doak Walker Award semifinalist.

For Northern Illinois to win: Northern Illinois will focus on shutting down Toledo's ground game at the line, forcing the Rockets to find success through the air. Passing is not Toledo's strong suit, and Northern Illinois should be able to bring pressure all night with three defensive linemen ranked in the top four in the MAC in sack totals. Sean Progar, Alan Baxter and Joe Windsor each have at least 6.5 sacks this season.

Key Player, Toledo: While tonight's game figures to be an offensive show, expect to hear the name Toledo linebacker Dan Molls often throughout the game. Molls leads the MAC in total tackles, with 132, exactly half are solo takedowns. The Butkus Award candidate is tied for the national lead in tackles and has had at least 13 tackles in eight games this season. Molls also has the academic pedigree as a National Football Foundation scholar-athlete semifinalist.

Key Player: Northern Illinois: Quarterback Jordan Lynch is the player to watch in this game. Lynch is second in the MAC in rushing with 1,342 yards and he leads the conference in rushing touchdowns with 16. He has also completed 62.8 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,175 yards and 19 touchdowns while only being intercepted three times. Simply put, Lynch has ways of leading the Huskies to victory with his arm and his legs.

If you have not had a chance to watch Northern Illinois yet, make sure to check out what he can do tonight. You should be thoroughly entertained.

Key Stat: Northern Illinois owns the longest home winning streak in the nation, with 20 straight wins at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies have also won 15 consecutive MAC games at home.

Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com and host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.