The Massachusetts Minutemen found an unconventional way to earn a victory last time out: relying on the running game rather than the passing attack. The Minutemen look for a similarly well-rounded effort Tuesday night as they visit an Akron Zips team that has lost four consecutive games. Massachusetts got a 400-yard passing performance from Blake Frohnapfel in last week’s 24-10 win over Ball State, but scored all three of its touchdowns on the ground.
Make no mistake, however; Frohnapfel is the key to the Minutemen offense, coming into the game with a whopping 3,345 passing yards – good for fourth in the nation – and 23 touchdowns through the air. But a right leg injury may keep him out against the Zips, who were torched 55-24 by the Buffalo Bulls last week and have allowed 140 points over the course of their losing skid. It’s the final home game of the season for Akron, which is 3-2 at InfoCision Stadium.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the mid-teens with a 30 percent chance of snow and wind blowing to the northeast at 15 mph.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Matchup of two teams going in opposite directions in the second half of the season, with the Minutemen 3-1 SU last four games after opening 0-6, while Zips enter 0-4 SU after a 4-2 start, with each of the last four losses as as favorites. Check condition of UMass star QB Blake Fronapfel and his bruised leg. If he goes, so do the Minutemen.” Cover Expert Marc Lawrence.
ABOUT MASSACHUSETTS (3-7 SU, 8-2 ATS, 6-3-1 O/U): Frohnapfel’s status for this week’s game will likely remain undecided until right before game day after the sensational starter injured himself after a run-and-slide. Freshman backup Austin Whipple took the first-team reps at practice last week, but head coach Mark Whipple isn’t ready to say who will be starting. “We’re holding out hope (that Frohnapfel can play),” Whipple told reporters, “but we’re not going to risk it if anything worse can happen. We’d never do anything to put him in harm’s way.”
ABOUT AKRON (4-6 SU, 2-8 ATS, 3-7 O/U): Being the favorite hasn’t agreed with the Zips at all over the past month, as they were giving points in each of their previous four losses – including last week’s loss to the Bulls, in which Buffalo racked up 536 yards of total offense and controlled the ball for more than 36 minutes. The Akron offense is led by quarterback Kyle Pohl, who has amassed just 432 yards without a touchdown in two games since returning from a head injury. Conor Hundley (463 yards, three TDs) and Jawon Chisholm (358 yards, five TDs) lead a two-pronged rush attack.
* Massachusetts is 6-0 ATS in its last six conference games.
* Akron is 0-6 ATS in its last six games.
* Over is 5-0-1 in the Minutemen’s last six road games.
* Under is 22-7 in the Zips’ last 29 games.
Northern Illinois Huskies at Ohio Bobcats (+2.5, 49)
Bowl eligibility is at stake Tuesday night as the Northern Illinois Huskies visit the Ohio Bobcats at Peden Stadium. The Huskies earned a pivotal 27-24 win over the Toledo Rockets in their final home game of the season last week, creating a three-way tie atop the MAC West standings and leaving Northern Illinois one victory shy of a potential bowl berth. To get there, they’ll need to upend a Bobcats team that is rested following a much-needed bye last week.
Ohio had played well going into the break, earning home victories against Akron and Buffalo sandwiched around a loss at Western Michigan. The Bobcats were at their best against the Bulls, rolling to a 37-14 victory after racking up 389 total yards and limiting Buffalo to a paltry 134. That should serve as a sufficient warning sign for the surging Huskies, who held on to defeat the Rockets last week despite finishing with fewer than 200 yards through the air.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the low-20s with partly cloudy skies and wind blowing to the east at 9 mph.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Huskies are winning games with an average 52 net YPG and control their own destiny in the MAC West. On the flip side, the Bobcats are losing the stats an average 39 net YPG and need a win tonight or next week to become bowl eligible. Look for NIU to stay in control of its fate.” Covers Expert Marc Lawrence.
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-2 SU, 4-6 ATS, 3-7 O/U): The Huskies were bailed out against Toledo by the heroics of Cameron Stingily, who needed 21 carries to compile 81 yards but had had a pair of second-half touchdown runs to lead NIU to victory. The senior running back has caught fire down the stretch, with eight scores in his last four games and a pair of 100-yard performances over that stretch. His surge has helped mask Drew Hare’s struggles, with the sophomore QB having thrown for just 545 combined yards and two TDs over his last four games.
ABOUT OHIO (5-5 SU, 5-5 ATS, 3-7 O/U): It has been an up-and-down season for the Bobcats, who haven’t had a winning or losing streak longer than two games at any point during the year. But coming off a virtuoso performance in which it forced four turnovers and controlled the football for more than 36 1/2 minutes, Ohio should pose problems for visiting Northern Illinois. Running back A.J. Ouellette racked up 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Bulls, giving him five scores over his last five games.
* Northern Illinois is 15-5-1 ATS in its last 21 road games.
* Ohio is 8-2-1 ATS in its last 11 games following a bye week.
* Under is 5-1 in the Huskies’ last six games.
* The road team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.