Ball State vs. Northern Illinois kicks off this Tuesday (11/07/23) at 7:00pm EST in DeKalb Illinois as a home game for the Huskies. Get Ball State vs. Northern Illinois predictions and best bets below as our best bet is on under 43.5 in what should be an ugly MAC showdown.
Ball State Vs. Northern Illinois Prediction
Midweek MACtion continues on this week with Ball State taking on Northern Illinois in a battle between two struggling MAC units. Both teams come off of losses from last week with Ball State losing a tight one to Bowling Green while Northern Illinois failed in their efforts of mounting a comeback against the Central Michigan Chippewas.
The issue is that it may be a lot uglier than NIU would prefer as all signs point towards the under in what should be a grueling game. Not so much because of both teams fielding a stout defense, but more so that both offenses have mightily struggled at this point of the season. Especially when it comes to punching it in for six when they enter scoring territory as Ball State ranks 116th in Points per Opportunity while Northern Illinois clocks in at 120th.
Speaking of Ball State, they will continue to roll with their new starting quarterback Kiael Kelly who started the year as their third stringer. He brings a more dynamic presence for their offense when under center, being able to gash opposing defenses with his explosive arm and open field running ability. The issue is that he is tied to just two concepts, explosive down field passes and running the option. That severely limits the Ball State offense and makes them more susceptible to getting slowed down against a stout NIU secondary.
Especially when NIU’s secondary can cover on an island, allowing their second level to spy the quarterback and halt his rushing production at the line by crashing down on the lanes. NIU’s back end currently grades out as elite, ranking 19th in Def Pass Success Rate, 16th in PPA, and sixth in Explosiveness. That spells doom for Kelly as he will struggle to generate downfield production with his down field passing as well as getting consistently spied on when he tries to bust one out with his legs.
On the other end, NIU may struggle as well when on offense as that has been a weak point for this unit. Passing has been near non-existent under Rocky Lombardi, forcing NIU to turn more towards the run in order to move the ball down the field. Not only will that bleed precious time off the clock but will be prone to being stopped in the mid field as Ball State excels at limiting the run. The Cardinals currently rank 51st in Def Rush PPA and 48th in Explosiveness.
Ball State Vs. Northern Illinois Prediction: Under 43.5
Ball State Vs. Northern Illinois Best Odds
The Huskies hopes of pulling out the win look good in a must win spot as oddsmakers opened Northern Illinois as a -8.5 favorite. Bettors are also in the same belief, backing NIU up to as high as -10 as of writing. They have a defense more than capable of slowing down Kelly, potentially setting a scoring pace too fast for the anemic Ball State offense to keep up with.
As for the total, oddsmakers believe points will be scored at a sluggish pace as they opened the number at 43.5. Bettors believe that number is just about right, slightly favoring the under in some books by taking it down to 43. Two ugly offenses are hitting the stage against two respectable defenses, making a case for a lot of stalled out drives and empty trips.
Ball State Vs. Northern Illinois Key Matchups
Can the Northern Illinois front seven slow down Marquez Cooper?
Marquez Cooper Vs. Northern Illinois Front Seven
Another benefactor of getting to run spy coverage with the NIU linebackers is that they will also be in a position to slow down Ball State’s lead back Marquez Cooper. He comes off a 90-yard one touchdown performance against Bowling Green and will be in a position to garner a heavy workload once again.
Here’s Marquez Cooper (@quez__15)’s diving TD run from today.
He was dominant with 162 rushing yards pic.twitter.com/oTwrkOqBXZ
— Gus Martin (@GusMartin_SP) October 22, 2023
NIU’s rush defense metrics are not exactly ideal, ranking 110th in Def Rush Success Rate, yet they excel at limiting explosiveness with the second level anchoring down. Especially with no fear of getting thrown over the top of, getting the chance to cheat more up to stop the run against a dynamic Ball State rushing attack.