Western Michigan vs Northern Illinois Pick, Prediction | Tuesday NCAAF Betting Guide
Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Western Michigan’s Anthony Sambucci.
Western Michigan Broncos vs Northern Illinois Huskies Odds
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The MAC West Division has been settled with Toledo holding a three-game lead in the standings.
Both Western Michigan and Northern Illinois failed to win the division, but there's everything to play for in Week 12 MACtion, as both teams sit at 4-6 on the year.
Midweek MACtion has been unkind to the Huskies, who suffered a loss at Central Michigan two weeks ago and at home to Ball State last week. Northern Illinois failed to get off the bus in those contests, taking a 21-point deficit into halftime against the Chippewas.
Western Michigan has experienced a different path, winning two consecutive conference contests over Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. The Broncos have had no issues finding the end zone in the last eight quarters, generating 83 points against the Eagles and Chippewas.
Western Michigan will look to win this game on the road, as the visitor has won this series in each of the last two years.
Lance Taylor is striving for a bowl in his first year as the Broncos' head coach.
The offense has been a balanced attack of run and pass, electing to go inside zone on rushing attempts. Running back Jalen Buckley has topped 100 yards four times this season, logging four rushing touchdowns over the past two games.
Jalen Buckley got the Western Michigan crowd going buckwild! Broncos tie it in Kalamazoo.
What a rivalry game this has been. pic.twitter.com/MV2tgigo2b
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) November 8, 2023
Old Dominion transfer Hayden Wolff took over starting quarterback duties in Week 8 against Ohio, nearly defeating the Bobcats before coming through with two consecutive wins.
Wolff has thrown five touchdowns to two interceptions with the 11-personnel offense since taking over as the starter. Western Michigan is a top-20 team in Havoc Allowed, a statistic that tracks tackles for loss allowed, interceptions and fumbles. The Broncos offense rarely makes the catastrophic mistakes that are associated with midweek MACtion.
The nickel defense plays multiple fronts from three and four down linemen. Defensive coordinator Lou Esposito prefers coverage in quarters, often pivoting to Cover 3 depending on down and distance.
Western Michigan has had consistent issues on defense in defending the run and stopping the explosive play. The Broncos rank outside the top 100 in Defensive Quality Drives and Finishing Drives, often leaning on the offense to take over conference games.
The offense has stalled over NIU's past two losses in MAC play.
The clear issue is a lack of efficiency when it gets knocked off schedule, recording a Success Rate better than 60% in standard downs but less than 25% in passing downs. This has been an issue the entire season, as the Huskies rank 106th in Passing Downs Success Rate.
The first step for any defense is to stop running back Antario Brown on inside and outside zone rushing attempts.
Mama, there goes that man!
— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 1, 2023
The struggles in passing downs are linked to quarterback Rocky Lombardi and his top target, Trayvon Rudolph.
The junior is one of the more explosive targets at the Group of Five level, averaging more than two yards per route run. Rudolph moved to slot wide receiver after Week 7 and has generated 31 targets in the last three games.
Head coach Thomas Hammock has seen the Huskies defense slip to the cellar of FBS in 2023. The 3-3-5 scheme ranks 130th in generating Havoc, ranking near dead last in Defensive Stuff Rate.
Coverage has been a strong point for the nickel defense that plays zone on 70% of opponent passing attempts with plenty of Cover 3.
A shining aspect of the Northern Illinois defense is its prevention of pass explosives, ranking top-15 in Defensive Pass Expected Points. The Huskies have allowed the fifth-fewest 10-yard passes this season.
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Western Michigan and Northern Illinois match up statistically:
Western Michigan Offense vs Northern Illinois Defense
Northern Illinois Offense vs Western Michigan Defense
Pace of Play / Other
|Special Teams SP+||125||115|
|Seconds per Play||24.5 (21)||28.4 (94)|
|Rush Rate||55.6% (30)||52.8% (68)|
Western Michigan vs Northern Illinois
The Western Michigan offense continues to get better each week, starting with Buckley on the ground.
With Northern Illinois likely to face a heavy amount of inside zone, it must improve on its defensive run statistics, including marks of 118th in Line Yards and 110th in Success Rate.
The Huskies have been poor at defending inside zone, posting a low 40% Success Rate.
Another advantage for the Broncos is the rate of mistakes allowed. Western Michigan sits top-20 in Havoc Allowed, so Wolff should have a clean pocket against a Huskies defense that ranks 130th in Havoc.
Western Michigan should score, but will Northern Illinois be able to counter on the offensive side of the ball?
The Huskies have struggled to move the chains in passing downs, ranking 79th in third-down conversions.
The Broncos have a coverage grade of 78th, per PFF, electing to run quarters on most passing attempts. Lombardi has struggled with quarters coverage this season, posting a 44% Success Rate while the Huskies get taken down behind the line of scrimmage on 12% of those plays.
In a battle between two teams striving to keep their bowl chances alive, Western Michigan has been the most consistent over the past several weeks.
Northern Illinois has struggled offensively to stay on schedule, and it's expected to struggle against WMU's quarters coverage.
The Western Michigan offense will run plenty of inside zone with Buckley, a run concept Northern Illinois has struggled to defend all season.