Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Ford Field, Detroit
Radio: ESPN 1520
Records: Buffalo 10-2, 7-1 MAC; NIU 7-5, 6-2 MAC
Last time out: UB clinched its first MAC East Division championship since 2008 with a 44-14 win Nov. 23 at Bowling Green. Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks each scored two touchdowns, and Emmanuel Reed led all rushers with 109 yards on 15 carries.
Western Michigan defeated NIU 28-21 in its final regular-season game Nov. 20 in Kalamazoo, Mich. Jamauri Bogan scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:36 left in the game to lift the Broncos. NIU quarterback Marcus Childers finished 14-for-21 passing for 156 yards and a touchdown, and was intercepted twice.
History: UB is 0-10 against the Huskies as a MAC opponent, and is 1-11 all-time against NIU. Buffalo earned its only win against the Huskies in 1968. The Bulls face the Huskies for the first time since Oct. 14, 2017, a 14-13 win for NIU at UB Stadium.
How they got here: The Bulls won the MAC East title last week at Bowling Green, while NIU clinched the MAC West on Nov. 13 by virtue of Ball State’s 42-41 win against Western Michigan in Muncie, Ind., the Broncos’ third MAC loss.
Back in contention: The Bulls play in the MAC championship game for the second time in school history. UB defeated Ball State 42-24 for the 2008 MAC championship.
The Huskies make their seventh appearance in the MAC title game in the last nine years, and NIU is 3-4 all-time in MAC championship games. NIU last won the MAC championship in 2014; the Huskies lost in the title game the following year to Bowling Green.
Hitting the mark: Linebacker Khalil Hodge had seven tackles against Bowling Green, bringing him to 406 in three seasons at UB. Hodge is the fourth player in UB history to record 400 tackles, and the first to do it in three seasons. Hodge is third all-time for UB in tackles, passing Mike Laipple (402). Davonte Shannon holds the school record of 461.
On the run: Patterson, a freshman, has 874 yards on 150 carries this season. He needs 44 yards to break the school's freshman rushing record of 917 yards, set by Aaron Leeper in 2002.
For the foes: Northern Illinois has established itself as a perennial contender for the MAC title, but the Huskies stumbled in their final two games of the regular season, a 13-7 loss Nov. 14 against Miami, and a 28-21 loss Nov. 20 at Western Michigan.
Northern Illinois leads the MAC in rushing defense (107 yards per game) and has held its opponents to under 100 yards rushing in seven games this season. NIU’s opponents are averaging 2.6 yards per rushing attempt. The Huskies lead the MAC in total defense (344 yards per game) and scoring defense (20.9 points per game).
The Huskies lead the nation and the MAC with 46 sacks, and defensive lineman Sutton Smith leads the MAC with 21 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Smith is also sixth in the nation in tackles for loss and fourth in the nation in sacks.
Northern Illinois’ offense isn’t as prolific as its defense. The Huskies are 10th in the 12-team MAC in total offense (318 yards per game). The Huskies average 19.9 points per game — the second-lowest scoring offense in the conference, and No. 122 in the nation (out of 130 teams).