The line for the week 11 Ball State at Northern Illinois matchup is kind of an interesting one, with the Cardinals listed as the -2.5 favorites on the road against NIU. This meeting has the makings of a good one with the Huskies atop the MAC West with a 4-1 conference record but still home ‘dogs against the 3-2 Cardinals.
Ball State is playing well with wins in four of their last five, and they had a tough gauntlet of competitors early in the season that has prepared them for the home stretch. NIU’s offense is coming into their own the last three games, but they also gave up 52 points to Kent State last week which is probably why NIU is getting points on Wednesday.
Cardinals Fighting For Their Shot
Ball State toppled Buffalo to win the 2020 MAC Championship and they also went on to beat San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl for their first ever bowl victory. As a result of last year’s 7-1 record the Cardinals ended up playing some quality competition to start the year suffering losses at Penn State and Wyoming.
The Cardinals are 3-2 in the MAC with losses to Miami-Ohio and Toledo on the year, but they’re still in the running for a repeat visit to Ford Field with a win over NIU, which would give Ball State the tie breaker between the two teams.
BSU has the #9 scoring offense in the MAC putting up 25.2 ppg, but they’ve done better lately in scoring 31+ in three of the last four. They’ve shown a little versatility doing that too, with Drew Plitt throwing for 310 yards and 4 TD in a win over Western Michigan in week 7, but then the team running for 200+ in victories over Eastern Michigan and Akron.
NIU Needs to Buckle Down on Defense
The Huskies have shown they can put up points lately with 34+ in three straight, but the week 11 Ball State at Northern Illinois game is going to get away from NIU if their defense doesn’t show up. NIU was playing the #1 rush offense in the MAC last week in Kent State, but they were exploited to the tune of 359 yards on the ground by the Golden Flashes.
Kent State QB Dustin Crum also threw for 322 yards last week so there’s a couple ways Ball State can attack this game on Wednesday night. Northern Illinois has the #11 rush defense in the MAC giving up 202.4 ypg but rank 6th vs. the pass (227.2).
NIU’s defense isn’t the only one with a challenge in this game, as despite last week’s loss the Huskies still racked up 47 points. QB Rocky Lombardi threw for a whopping 532 yards with three TDs while Jevyon Ducker ran for 101 yards on 19 carries. Trayvon Rudolph was completely uguardable last week with 14 catches for 309 yards. Rudolph and Lombardi are clicking, as the WR has 20 catches and 469 yards the last two games with 5 TDs.
Week 11 Ball State at Northern Illinois Pick
Ball State wants to get back to the MAC Championship game but Northern Illinois is basically in a do-or-die spot to hold on to their ticket to Detroit. The Huskies have winnable games against Buffalo and Western Michigan remaining, and so this is essentially a play-in game at home. Expect a wild atmosphere in Dekalb.
Northern Illinois 40 – Ball State 35
Free Pick: Northern Illinois +2.5