Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois Odds, Pick, Prediction: Value is on Cowboys as Road Favorites (Sept. 11)

Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois Odds, Pick, Prediction: Value is on Cowboys as Road Favorites (Sept. 11) article feature image

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Craig Bohl.

  • Wyoming takes on Northern Illinois in a Week 2 college football matchup featuring unbeaten teams.
  • The Cowboys' superior rushing attack could pose a serious problem for the Huskies.
  • Brad Cunningham breaks down why the Cowboys are the play despite playing on the road.

Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois Odds

Saturday, Sept. 11
1:30 p.m. ET
Wyoming Odds
-105o / -115u
Northern Illinois Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Wyoming travels to DeKalb after a scare against Montana State in Week 1 to take on Northern Illinois, who is coming off a big upset over Georgia Tech.

Wyoming Cowboys

Wyoming barely survived 19-16 over Montana State in Week 1, needing a touchdown on their final drive of the game to avoid an upset.

This is now the eighth year under Craig Bohl who has steadily improved the program. He's had two eight-win seasons in his last four years at the helm.

Wyoming returns a ton of production on both sides of the ball with 77% on offense and 82% on defense, according to TARP. It should have a distinct advantage over an inexperienced team like Northern Illinois.

Cowboys Offense

Sean Chambers returns under center after breaking his leg three snaps into the 2020 season. He's not the best passer in the Mountain West, but his ability on the ground is what makes him lethal. During the 2019 season, he only threw for 7.6 yards per attempt and earned a 51.7 passing grade, per PFF.

However, he carried the ball for 6.3 yards per attempt and rushed for 10 touchdowns during that same season. Thus the Cowboys' success really is going to come on the ground, considering they ran the ball 66.50% of the time in 2019 when Chambers was under center.

"Get outta my way" -Sean Chambers to Mizzou pic.twitter.com/ZBo2UY4xi3

— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 1, 2019

Wyoming also brings back their star running back Xazavian Valladay, who has rushed for over five yards a carry the past two seasons and was first-team All-Mountain West last season.

Wyoming also returns their entire offensive line, which was fantastic in run blocking last season, ranking 38t,h per PFF. The problem with their offensive line is they are horrible in pass protection, ranking 114th in Sack Rate allowed last season. However, the run game for Wyoming is going to be the difference in this game.

Cowboys Defense

The Cowboys defense will be one of the best in the Mountain West this season, especially in the secondary. They return five starters from last season, and the unit ranked 19th in Passing Success Rate Allowed while only giving up 6.8 yards per attempt.

The underrated part of this unit is their two corners, C.J. Coldon and Azizi Hearn, who allowed only a 57.7 passer rating when targeted during the 2020 season. They also have one of the best safeties in the Mountain West in Rome Weber, who opted out of the 2020 season and was graded as the fourth-best safety in the Mountain West during the 2019 season, per PFF.

Wyoming's front seven was outstanding last season, ranking inside the top 25 in Defensive Line Yards, Havoc, and Sack Rate. They should be able to wreak havoc all over Northern Illinois' offensive line which was one of the worst in the MAC last season.

Wyoming also returns pretty much everyone in their front seven, plus a few starters who opted out of the 2020 season. They have one of the best linebackers in the Mountain West in Chad Mumba, who ranked inside the top 20 in run defense and pass rushing last season, per PFF.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Northern Illinois pulled off a big upset as 20 point underdogs, beating Georgia Tech 22-21 on the road. It was a big win for the Huskies and head coach Thomas Hammock, who went 0-6 during the shortened 2020 season.

However, Northern Illinois is the least experienced team in the country coming into the season and only return 51% on offense in terms of TARP, which is way below average in the year of the super senior.

Huskies Offense

Former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi is now under center for the Huskies and had a decent performance his first game, going 11-for-17 for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

However, if past history has taught us anything, Lombardi is not the answer at quarterback, especially against an outstanding secondary like Wyoming has.

In his time at Michigan State, Lombardi received a passing grade below 61 per PFF in all three seasons and never averaged over seven yards per pass attempt.

Lombardi does have a good group of receivers to throw to led by Tyrice Richie, who was graded as one of the best wide receivers in the MAC last season, per PFF.  However, he only ran 28 of his 228 routes last season against press-man coverage, so he may regress as he sees more throughout the season.

The rushing attack came alive against Georgia Tech, as lead back Harrison Waylee ran for 144 yards and 5.3 yards per carry on Saturday night.

However, the rushing attack is likely going to regress because even though the Huskies return 59 starts on the offensive line, they ranked 118th in Offensive Line Yards and 78th in Rushing Success Rate last season in a MAC-only schedule.

Huskies Defense

Northern Illinois' defense was outstanding against Georgia Tech on Saturday night, allowing only 5.5 yards per play and 5.20 yards per pass attempt. That is a massive improvement from last season when they allowed 6.4 yards per play and 9.2 yards per attempt.

They do return a ton of experience on defense with 87% of their production returning, per TARP.

However, returning a ton of production isn't that great when you were one of the worst defenses in the MAC last season. The Huskies ranked outside the top 95 in Defensive Success Rate and explosiveness allowed. Their secondary was terrible, ranking 124th in coverage, per PFF, and they will need to be stout in the front seven to stop Wyoming's rushing attack.

Last season, Northern Illinois ranked 69th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate, 92nd in rushing explosiveness allowed, and 78th in Defensive Line Yards. Wyoming should be able to run all over.

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Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois Matchup Analysis

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

Wyoming Offense vs. Northern Illinois Defense




Rushing Success
Passing Success
Line Yards
Sack Rate
Finishing Drives

Northern Illinois Offense vs. Wyoming Defense




Rushing Success
Passing Success
Line Yards
Sack Rate
Finishing Drives

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling
Rush Rate
62.3% (32)
71.2% (10)
Seconds per Play

Data via College Football Data (CFBD) and FootballOutsiders; SP+ projection per ESPN.

This game is going to be decided on the ground because we have two very poor passing quarterbacks, and the wind is going to whipping in DeKalb on Saturday.

I trust Wyoming's rushing attack and their defense far more than Northern Illinois, whose rushing attack only gained 3.4 yards per attempt last season.

Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois Betting Pick

Wyoming opened up at -4 but has been quickly bet to -6.5 as 83% of the money is currently on the Cowboys.

I have Wyoming projected as -13.69 favorites, and Collin Wilson's PRO Projections have Wyoming as a -10.3 favorites, so I think there is still some value on Wyoming at -6.5, which is currently available at BetMGM.

Pick: Wyoming -6.5

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