It’s no wonder Ball State is a heavy underdog to Northern Illinois this Wednesday. The Cardinals are in midst of a 6-game losing skid in which they have looked about as competitive as your local High School team would look against the Los Angeles Rams. At one point, BSU went 3 straight games without scoring a touchdown. In the past 2 weeks they have been out-scored 113 to 31 by Toledo and EMU.
But 30+ points is still a very healthy point spread, especially when the favorite is Northern Illinois.
No disrespect to the Huskies, who are 6-3 and may still have a fighting chance to win the West division of the MAC. Marcus Childers is a quality game-management QB, and the NIU defense was terrific in a 21-17 upset win over Nebraska earlier this season.
But it’s not NIU’s style to try to score 42 points in the 1st half and run an opponent off the field. The closest that the Huskies have been to a 32-point victory in 2017 was a 48-17 thrashing of Bowling Green. Northern Illinois was ahead 31-7 at halftime, coasted in the 2nd half, and rushed 55 times to 34 pass attempts.
If this is going to be a 35+ point blow-out, it means that the Huskies will be playing lock-down defense.
Who: Ball State Cardinals at Northern Illinois Huskies
When: Thursday, November 9th, 7 PM EST
Where: Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, IL
Lines: Ball State (+32) vs NIU (-32) / O/U Total: 53
Will Ball State manage a touchdown or 2? If they do, it will be hard for NIU to cover. If they can’t, then value goes to the favorite.
The Cardinals reached the end zone twice in the 2nd half last week against Eastern Michigan, finally generating a solid ground game and connecting on a few nice passes from QB Drew Plitt. But EMU is 3-6, and never seriously threatened in the 56-14 romp.
BSU’s offense did jump out to a 7-3 lead against Toledo last week, with RB Caleb Huntley having his 2nd good game in a row behind a struggling OL.
Northern Illinois could have an emotional let-down after losing to Toledo themselves last week. Combined with the short rest, the disappointment creates an X-factor that should steer the bettor clear of NIU this time.
Though bettors are jumping on the NIU pick ATS and driving the point spread upward, I’m bucking the trend and picking Ball State to cover (+32) or higher. The Cardinals have improved their offensive output, and I expect a cautious game from the Huskies as they work past the disappointment of a probably bridesmaid finish.