Kent State vs. Northern Illinois MAC Championship Odds, Predictions, Picks: Where 12 Experts See Betting Value
Mark Goldman and David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured from left: Dante Cephus (14) of the Kent State Golden Flashes and Harrison Waylee (30) of the Northern Illinois Huskies.
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois Odds
|Kent State Odds|
-105o / -115u
|Northern Illinois Odds|
-105o / -115u
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois
The 2021 MAC Championship features one team that started the year 0-3 with a -75 scoring margin against FBS opponents, and another that was expected to win roughly four games all season.
If that doesn’t scream “MAC,” then I’m not sure what does.
It’s the second ever title appearance for Kent State and first for head coach Sean Lewis. His Golden Flashes were no match for a string of Power 5 foes out of the gates, but they did go 6-2 in conference play to secure the MAC East.
Kent State is the favorite over Northern Illinois, which crushed its win total by mid-October thanks to a slew of signature victories.
The Huskies clearly like the underdog role, having won a whopping four games at plus money in 2021, including Georgia Tech (+19) and Toledo (+13).
Let’s dive into the biggest edges on the spread and total, as well as the player prop market for Saturday’s tilt.
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois Spread
Kent State -3.5
Northern Illinois +3.5
Northern Illinois finished the 2020 MAC-only season with a winless 0-6 record. While the Huskies have definitely improved from last season, they have also been the beneficiaries of a lot of good fortunes.
Thomas Hammock’s squad finished the year 8-4 and 6-2 in the MAC. NIU was a remarkable 7-2 in one score games. The only team the Huskies beat by more than eight points was Maine.
Our Action Network college football staff isn’t buying it. Eleven of our 12 writers like NIU’s luck to run out and Kent State to cover in this conference-title matchup.
The first meeting between these two teams was a 52-47 Kent State win that saw the Golden Flashes offense rack up 681 yards, averaging 9.1 yards per play.
Northern Illinois was able to hang around thanks to Rocky Lombardi posting a career-high 532 passing yards and three touchdowns. Expecting him to replicate that performance is a tall ask. He has a passer grade of just 65.6 per Pro Football Focus, ranking 17th in the MAC, just slightly behind Bowling Green’s Matt McDonald.
Lombardi will need to have another career day to outmatch this Kent State attack. The Flashes offense ranks fifth in the country in Success Rate. This unit moves the ball and does so quickly.
In the first meeting, the Golden Flashes rushed for 360 yards and five touchdowns. Marquez Cooper torched them for 173 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 7.5 yards per carry. Kent State ranks sixth in the country in Rushing Success rate and Line Yards, and it has a great matchup here. The Huskies rank 126th in Rushing Success on defense and 128th in Line Yards.
Quarterback Dustin Crum has been more dangerous with his legs this season for Kent State, but he still grades out as the best passer in the MAC, according to PFF, and can sling it when he needs to. He has the 15th-best passer grade in the country among all QBs with at least 300 drop backs, and he has the No. 7-ranked offensive grade among quarterbacks.
Once this Flashes offense gets rolling, it’s almost impossible to stop. Northern Illinois has been outplayed in most games, despite its record, and we expect that to finally catch up to it in what should be a shootout. We are backing Kent State to pull away and win its first MAC Championship in school history.
Staff Pick: Kent State -3.5
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois Over/Under
Expect points to be scored. A lot of them for a matter of fact.
This is sneakily going to be one of the more exciting games of the weekend, with both teams possessing some offensive firepower and facing some very poor defenses. This is going to be a great way to kick off the last full Saturday slate of games for our viewing pleasure.
Kent State comes in with one of the most successful rushing attacks in the nation and will once again be able to do what they want on the ground against NIU’s awful run defense. The Flashes’ fast tempo will also playThey are also one of the fastest units in football who prefer to play at an up-tempo pace, ranking third in plays per minute.
NIU will come in with a similar game plan as an elite rushing team, ranking 21st in Rush Success. The Huskies aren’t too shabby through the air either. With Kent State ranking 90th or worse in every defensive metric, Northern Illinois will have plenty of ways to find yards en-route to the endzone.
Expect big gains to happen early and often, as both units are horrific at stopping explosiveness — Kent State comes in at 90th while NIU ranks 119th. With both being very poor at generating any Havoc, this is set up for quick successful drives on both ends with hopes of busted plays happening for large gains.
The cherry on top for us over bettors are both defenses’ inability to stop drives past the 40-yard line. Both units are 100th or worse in Def. Finishing Drives. When either team gets past the 40, expect points to be put on the board. With a high total of 73.5, we will need nearly every possession to end up with points.
Safe to say the defense isn’t the reason these teams made it this far.