Northern Illinois vs. Kentucky Betting Odds, Picks: Can Huskies Keep It Close?
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Levis (Kentucky)
- Northern Illinois heads to Lexington on Saturday to take on Kentucky.
- The Wildcats enter as huge favorites, but Cooper Van Tatenhove thinks the Huskies can keep it close.
- Check out Van Tatenhove's full betting guide and pick for Northern Illinois vs. Kentucky below.
Northern Illinois vs. Kentucky Odds
Kentucky looks to keep its undefeated season and 3-0 ATS record alive against Northern Illinois on Saturday at Kroger Field.
Against SEC opponents, Northern Illinois is 1-11 SU, but 10-2 ATS coming into Saturday.
This matchup has look-ahead potential for Kentucky, as it travels to Oxford next week to take on Ole Miss in a battle of two potentially undefeated top-25 SEC teams.
The Huskies have a huge question mark at the quarterback position after starter Rocky Lombardi went down with a leg injury and did not return for the final three quarters last week against Vanderbilt.
Backup Ethan Hampton was able to lead back-to-back touchdown drives to end the first half and give Northern Illinois a 21-14 advantage going into the break.
The second half was a different story, though. Northern Illinois' offense posted Success Rates of only 19% and 33% in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. This Success Rate resulted in the Huskies being outscored 24-7 in the second half.
When asked about the status of Lombardi’s injury head coach Thomas Hammock said, “We got better news than we anticipated … we’ve got the rest of the week to figure out how he progresses.”
Although it appears Lombardi’s status for this week’s matchup may not be known until kickoff, Northern Illinois' balance offensively gives it the ability to withstand his absence.
Northern Illinois has shown enough of a balanced attack on offense for either Hampton or Lombardi to have plenty of success. The Huskies have posted 3.4-Line Yards per rush, which has contributed to their 52% Success Rate in Standard Downs.
This successful rushing attack could expose Kentucky, as Wildcats linebacker J.J Weaver went down with a shoulder injury in Week 3 and is absent from the team's depth chart upon the time of writing. Weaver is a crucial piece to Kentucky's defense from a pressure perspective.
Defensively, Northern Illinois is equipped to keep Kentucky inside the number. Northern Illinois came into 2022 with an 87% TARP ranking on defense.
This returning production gives the Huskies enough talent to expose the offensive weaknesses of this Kentucky team.
It has already been a historic season for the Wildcats, as Mark Stoops passed Bear Bryant to become the all-time winningest coach in program history.
Although on the surface this has appeared to be a flawless season through the first three weeks (undefeated SU and ATS records), Stoops and his staff have been adamant that there is much room for improvement, specifically on offense.
Offensively under Stoops, Kentucky has leaned on its running game defined by stellar offensive line play and exceptional talent at the running back position.
This season, Kentucky has struggled to find a cohesive starting five on the offensive line and has missed the talents of running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., who was suspended for the first four games of the year.
Through three weeks, Kentucky has produced three different starting lineups on the offensive line. The Wildcats have produced an Explosiveness rating of just .97 to start the year while they continue to solidify a successful rotation in the trenches.
Northern Illinois presents another challenge for the Kentucky front five, as the Huskies return nine of their top 11 tacklers from a unit that led them to a 9-5 season and a MAC title in 2021.
The shortcomings in the run game — because of poor offensive line consistency — have put additional pressure on quarterback Will Levis to make plays, which has resulted in more mistakes than offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello would prefer.
In Week 3, Levis was able to post 377 yards through the air against FCS-opponent Youngstown State, but also had two questionable decisions that resulted in interceptions and a 76.2 QBR.
Given the success that Northern Illinois will have offensively, I expect the pressure on Levis will continue. The Huskies' ground attack — along with a top-25 ranking in Offensive Finishing Drives — will result in Northern Illinois getting some points on the board.
Northern Illinois vs. Kentucky Matchup Analysis
Toggle the drop-downs below to hide or show how Northern Illinois and Kentucky match up statistically:
Northern Illinois Offense vs. Kentucky Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Kentucky Offense vs. Northern Illinois Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||107||48|
|Seconds per Play||30.1 (118)||31.3 (126)|
|Rush Rate||56.4% (49)||52.4% (77)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Northern Illinois vs. Kentucky Betting Pick
Kentucky is looking for this matchup with Northern Illinois to be a "get-right" game before its schedule cranks up with a road trip to Oxford.
The Huskies possess both the play style and talent to capitalize on some of the areas the Kentucky coaching staff is looking to improve.
Success on the ground and pressure up-front will give Kentucky more of test than it's looking for from Northern Illinois.
Both of these teams rank outside the top 100 in seconds per play. This slow tempo — along with some potential mistakes from Levis — will not give Kentucky enough possessions to cover this number.