The week 10 Northern Illinois at Kent State matchup is a possible preview of the MAC Championship just over a month from now at Ford Field. NIU currently leads the MAC West with a 4-0 conference record, while Kent State is 3-1 in conference play which has them atop the East.
NIU is a +3.5 underdog on the road Wednesday night, and the betting public likes that number as about 61% are on the Huskies. Northern Illinois is riding a five game win streak into this tilt but Kent State has won three of four and has mixed it up with the likes of Texas A&M, Iowa, and Maryland this season. Those were all losses, but never underestimate the power of quality competition.
NIU Offensive Line Set to Take Over?
The Huskies come into the week 10 Northern Illinois at Kent State matchup with the #1 rushing attack in the MAC (232.6 ypg). That’s impressive considering their leading rusher is Harrison Waylee (574 yards) who hasn’t played since October 2nd after suffering an injury against Eastern Michigan.
Jay Ducker has filled in nicely for Waylee, going for 210 and 183 yards rushing the last two games. That really is a testament to NIU’s offensive line, which many consider the best in the MAC. The Huskies should be able to play downhill on Wednesday night against a Kent State rush defense that has allowed 312 yards to Buffalo and 341 to Western Michigan before holding Ohio to 135 on October 23rd.
What makes Northern Illinois such an appealing play on Wednesday night is that they can move the ball through the air as well. Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi threw for a season high 348 yards to lead the win over Central Michigan in the Huskies’ last game. Granted that’s not the norm as NIU throws for just 165.5 ypg, but that’s still another thing for Kent State to game plan against.
Kent State Can Score Too
Wednesday’s betting total is a whopping 68 points so this one very well could come down to who has the ball last. Northern Illinois has scored 34+ in three of the last five and Kent State has gone for 31+ in three straight. The Golden Flash is just 2-1 over that span though because their defense laid an egg in the 54-31 loss at Western Michigan in week 7.
If it’s not the team that has the ball last that wins on Wednesday, it’s likely going to be the squad that makes the fewest mistakes that comes out on top. That favors Kent State not just because they lead the MAC with 13 INTs, but because Golden Flash QB Dustin Crum hasn’t thrown an INT since the season opener. NIU’s defense also has just 1 interception on the year.
Crum has 6 TD passes over the last three games, but it’s actually the Kent State rush offense that is 2nd in the MAC going for over 220 ypg on the ground. Crum had 93 yards on the ground last time out at Ohio so he is a dual threat.
Week 10 Northern Illinois at Kent State Pick
The Huskies could easily be favored or at least a PK in this game and the fact that the line has the hook in it makes NIU the play in this one – even on the road.
Northern Illinois 42 – Kent State 38
Free Pick: Northern Illinois +3.5