NCAAF Odds, Picks for NIU vs. Nebraska
Via James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Rocky Lombardi #12 of the Northern Illinois Huskies celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the 2021 Cure Bowl against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Exploria Stadium on December 17, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.
Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska Odds
Nebraska looks for its first win of the season when it hosts Northern Illinois on Saturday.
Northern Illinois has had about the weirdest start to a season possible. In Week 1, the Huskies visited Chestnut Hill, where they picked up a walk-off win over Boston College. They then followed that upset victory with a deflating home loss to Southern Illinois last weekend.
To be fair, though, the Huskies were only 8.5-point favorites because Southern Illinois is a quality FCS program.
Nebraska lost a heartbreaker in the opener against Minnesota, 13-10, and then had a disastrous day in Boulder to start 0-2. It's the first year of the Matt Rhule rebuild, and the first season in a rebuild is typically pretty rough, so it may be a long season for in Lincoln.
Nonetheless, a win over an inferior opponent on Saturday would help steer things in the right direction.
Find odds, as well as a pick and prediction for Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska in this college football betting preview for Saturday, Sept. 16 below.
The Northern Illinois offense starts and ends with Rocky Lombardi.
The Michigan State transfer is now in his third season with the Huskies and has put up passing numbers that aren't great — except for a moment last season.
He was hurt for the majority of the season, but in the four games he played, he posted an elite 90.8 PFF passing grade.
Image via PFF.
Lombardi has come back down to earth in his two starts this year with five turnover-worthy plays in two games, as he remains terrible under pressure.
In two games this season, he has been pressured on 20 of his 75 dropbacks. In the 55 dropbacks with a clean pocket, he has a PFF passing grade of 79.0. In the 20 dropbacks he's been pressured on, his passing grade drops to 27.7.
Northern Illinois brought back 117 starts from an offensive line that was above average in pass-blocking grade, so Lombardi shouldn't be under a ton of pressure this season.
The Huskies also return their best rusher from last season in Antario Brown, who averaged a whopping 6.3 yards per carry last season. He's struggled to get going in their first two games, but the Northern Illinois offensive line was solid in Line Yards and Stuff Rate Allowed in 2022.
The Northern Illinois defense has played much better thus far, as it held Boston College to 4.8 yards per play and Southern Illinois to 4.4 yards per play and a 1-for-11 mark on third downs.
It's been a horrible start for Georgia Tech transfer quarterback Jeff Sims at Nebraska.
He played about as poor of a game as possible against Colorado on Saturday, completing 9-of-15 passes for 108 yards with an interception and three fumbles.
He left the game with an ankle injury, and his status for this game is up in the air, which means Heinrich Haarberg could start at quarterback.
Haarberg was a three-star dual-threat quarterback from Kearney, Nebraska, coming out of high school. He's a good runner and a threat when he escapes the pocket, but as a passer, he's pretty raw and will only be making high-percentage throws.
However, Nebraska is predominantly a running team with Marcus Satterfield serving as offensive coordinator. The Huskers have run the ball on a whopping 62.9% of their offensive plays.
They have 120 starts combined across the offensive line, and their top back, Anthony Grant, returns alongside Gabe Ervin. So far, the Huskers are averaging 5.2 yards per carry and rank 53rd in Rushing Success Rate, so running the ball is their best path to success.
Defensively, Nebraska was a mess last year. The Huskers finished the season 123rd in Success Rate Allowed, 88th in EPA/Play and 114th in Havoc. Consequently, new defensive coordinator Tony White enters from Syracuse, and he will implement a 3-3-5 defense.
The Huskers defense played a fantastic game in the opener against Minnesota, as it held the Gophers to 3.6 yards per play. But then Colorado torched them for 36 points, over 450 yards of offense and almost six yards per play.
The Huskers have been stout against the run so far, which will put pressure on Lombardi as a passer.
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Northern Illinois and Nebraska match up statistically:
Northern Illinois Offense vs. Nebraska Defense
Nebraska Offense vs. Northern Illinois Defense
Pace of Play / Other
|Special Teams SP+||124||107|
|Seconds per Play||29.3 (103)||29.7 (110)|
|Rush Rate||55.0% (57)||65.6% (16)|
Northern Illinois vs Nebraska
Betting Pick & Prediction
Nebraska may not be as bad as the results have shown so far, but the Huskers certainly aren't good enough at this juncture to be laying this big of a number.
Even though Sims has been horrible through two games, he's an upgrade over Haarberg, which is why this line has dropped three points from opening at -13.5.
Northern Illinois has a competent quarterback and running game with the best offensive line in the MAC, so the Huskies should stay competitive here.
I only project Nebraska as a 7.3-point favorite, so I like the value on Northern Illinois at +10.5 or better.
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