Northern Illinois vs Central Michigan Odds, Picks, Predictions | How to Bet MACtion

Northern Illinois vs Central Michigan Odds, Picks, Predictions | How to Bet MACtion article feature image

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Central Michigan wide receiver Irone Jackson.

Northern Illinois vs Central Michigan Odds

Wednesday, Nov. 2
7 p.m. ET
Northern Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
Central Michigan Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Central Michigan and Northern Illinois both enter midweek MACtion off of a much-needed bye week.  

Northern Illinois finished 0-6 in 2020 before an unprecedented 9-4 season led the program to a MAC Championship. The Huskies were one of the luckier teams last season and got outscored, 425-410, in total points despite taking home the trophy.

The program finished last season 7-3 in one-possession games. The luck appears to have run out this year, as the Huskies have gone 1-4 in one-score games.

Now, they match up against a Central Michigan squad that has followed a similar trend. After a 9-4 season last year, the Chippewas have won just two of their first eight games this season.  

Only one of these two programs will keep their bowl hopes alive after this matchup.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Northern Illinois' luck has finally run out. After winning seven of their 10 close games last season, the Huskies have won just one of their five games decided by one score this year.

Despite losing all three nonconference games to FBS opponents, the Huskies kept those games close. They lost to Tulsa by three, Vanderbilt by 10 and Kentucky by just eight points.

Injuries at the quarterback position have plagued Northern Illinois this season. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi has averaged 8.6 yards per attempt while tossing five touchdowns to one interception in his four starts this season.

Backup Ethan Hampton has surpassed Lombardi in pass attempts due to the starter's injuries. Hampton is averaging just 6.5 yards per pass attempt and has tossed six interceptions to seven touchdowns in his four starts. The quarterback decision could be a pivotal factor in the outcome of this matchup.

The Huskies' run game is the bread and butter of this offense. Head coach Thomas Hammock runs a slow-paced offense that rushes the ball on 60% of its plays.

The group averages 4.9 yards per carry on the season, which ranks 30th in the country. 

But the Central Michigan defense has been strong against opposing running attacks, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. Moving the ball on the ground won't be easy against a CMU defensive line that ranks second nationally in Line Yards.

Central Michigan Chippewas

The Central Michigan offense has taken a massive step back from last year’s success. The 2021 offense averaged 32 points per game behind a dominant rushing attack that opened the passing lanes.

The run game was expected to take a slight hit after two starting tackles were drafted in the second and third rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. But their loss has had a lasting effect on the offensive production this season. 

Running back Lew Nichols III was the engine of the Chippewas offense last season. He rushed for over 100 yards in his final eight games last year, averaging 180 yards and 5.6 yards per carry in that span.

This year, the sophomore has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in just one of his six starts. Nichols dropped his production down to just 3.5 yards per carry after averaging 5.4 in 2021.

The inability to run the football consistently has impacted the aerial attack as well. Quarterback Daniel Richardson has thrown 13 touchdowns to four interceptions on the season, but he’s completed just 56% of his passes and averaged 6.1 yards per pass attempt.

He was replaced last time out by Jase Bauer, who possesses more dual-threat ability. Bauer completed 18-of-25 passes for 186 yards against Bowling Green last week. He also displayed his running ability by rushing for 109 yards on 16 attempts.

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Northern Illinois vs Central Michigan Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Northern Illinois and Central Michigan match up statistically:

Central Michigan Offense vs Northern Illinois Defense
Rush Success11257
Line Yards12368
Pass Success92114
Pass Blocking**11366
Finishing Drives113127
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Northern Illinois Offense vs Central Michigan Defense
Rush Success8141
Line Yards872
Pass Success3192
Pass Blocking**7144
Finishing Drives3875
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling49103
PFF Coverage68126
SP+ Special Teams11675
Seconds per Play23.9 (22)28.7 (110)
Rush Rate47.1% (105)60.3% (20)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Northern Illinois vs Central Michigan Betting Pick

The way to expose Central Michigan's defense is through the air and not on the ground.

The Chippewas are allowing just 3.3 yards per carry this season, which ranks among the top 25 in the nation. But the group ranks outside the top 100 nationally through the air, allowing an average of 7.4 yards per pass attempt.

Both Lombardi and Hampton missed last week's game against Ohio. Justin Lynch, who had one career pass attempt, started in that matchup and completed 9-of-18 passes for 110 yards. He failed to lead his team to a game-tying touchdown drive in two attempts in the fourth quarter.

Northern Illinois' defense has failed to improve this season and is allowing 34 points per game to FBS opponents. The Huskies have been solid against the run but horrid defending the pass, allowing 8.7 yards per pass attempt against FBS teams (119th).

They’ve also given up points on 94% of opponents' drives inside the 20.

I also question the motivation for Northern Illinois in this matchup. The Huskies are the reigning MAC champions but now need to win out just to become bowl eligible.

This number has jumped up to Central Michigan +6, which has given value to the Chips. CMU covers this number on the road.

Pick: Central Michigan +6 ⋅ Play to +4.5

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