Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois kicks off Saturday (12/23/23) at noon EST in Montgomery, Alabama as the host site for the Camellia Bowl. Get Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois predictions and best bets below as our best bet is Northern Illinois moneyline as they are in a good position to get the upset win. For up-to-date injury and transfer portal information this bowl season, consult the Lineups bowl tracker.
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois Prediction
Saturday’s college football bowl slate kicks off with Arkansas State taking on Northern Illinois in the Camellia Bowl, a game that has so far stayed the course against opt outs and transfers. As of this writing, only a handful of starters have entered the transfer portal and already committed elsewhere which makes them ineligible to play. Arkansas State’s starting linebacker Javante Mackey has committed to Memphis while the Huskies starting center Pete Nygra is going to Louisville. For an up-to-date list of opt outs, injuries, and transfers, you can read it here.
With both teams retaining a majority of their identity on both sides of the ball, that means their metrics going into the game are more concrete as they directly relate to who is still on the field. With that said, the line movement towards Arkansas State is very curious as the numbers scream advantages towards the Northern Illinois Huskies. Oddsmakers opened Arkansas State as a slight favorite at -1.5, now getting steamed up to +2.5 as of writing.
While it’s certainly worth waiting to see if Northern Illinois touches +3, their moneyline is still worth a wager as their advantages on both sides of the ball are hard to ignore. Starting with their offense, the Huskies should face little resistance on the ground as the Red Wolves rank 87th in Def Rush Success Rate, 98th in Def Rush PPA, and 105th in Def Rush Explosiveness. That spells potential doom against a Huskies offense who ranks 43rd in Rush Success Rate, 24th in Rush PPA, and 20th in Rush Explosiveness.
The Red Wolves also struggle to contain production through the air, but Northern Illinois may struggle to exploit that weakness. It’s worth mentioning that the Huskies are dangerously thin at receiver, losing three starting receivers due to injury. Luckily for them, wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph has withdrawn his name from the transfer portal and will play in this game. He’s in a position to shred a Red Wolves secondary who ranks 82nd in Def Pass Success Rate and 89th in Def Pass PPA.
As for the Northern Illinois defense, they get the benefit of stopping a relatively weak Arkansas State offense. The Red Wolves come into this contest ranked 90th in Success Rate, 106th in Points per Opportunity, and 78th in Havoc Allowed. They do excel at Explosiveness, yet the Huskies rank seventh overall in Def Explosiveness. Success through the air will also be practically non-existent against Northern Illinois as they rank 15th in Def Pass Success Rate, 17th in Def Pass PPA, and Def Pass 11th in Explosiveness.
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois Prediction: Northern Illinois ML
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois Best Odds
As mentioned earlier, the line movement has gone directly against this wager as bettors have taken the Red Wolves up to -2.5 after oddsmakers opened them at -1.5. A curious line movement as the Huskies were hardly hampered by opt outs and transfers, maintaining a majority of their production that plays towards their advantages in the metrics.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 51.5. With both teams coming in relatively intact, bettors believe points will come at a slightly faster pace and have hit the over up to as high as 53.5. The few players who have hit the transfer portal were on the defense, meaning downfield success may come at a higher rate.
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois Key Matchups
Can the Huskies limit the Red Wolves ground game?
Arkansas State Ground Game vs. Northern Illinois Front Seven
While the Huskies are well equipped to shut down the Arkansas State pass attack, limiting the ground game will be a whole different story. Their metrics take a dip to below average in that regard, ranking 80th in Def Rush PPA and 85th in Success Rate.
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Luckily for them, the Red Wolves rush attack does not fare much better as they come into the contest ranked 89th in Rush Success Rate and 82nd in Rush PPA. They do excel in Explosiveness, ranking 36th in that department, but Northern Illinois is more than capable of limiting the big gain by ranking 44th in Def Rush Explosiveness.