NORTHERN ILLINOIS AT BALL STATE
Northern Illinois goes on the road Wednesday Night to face Ball State in a HUGE MAC Conference game. Northern Illinois sits at 4-1 in the West division while Ball State sits at 5-0. Ball State also has a lofty #16 ranking Nationally and is undefeated don the year with a spotless 8-0 mark. But despite the ranking and the undefeated mark to date, it's hard to justify Ball State being favored by 10 points over this Northern Illinois Squad.
Each team played outside the MAC but you'd have to give Northern Illinois the nod as having played the tougher teams. They went on the road to play a very good Minnesota team as well as Tennessee. They came within 4 points of both, and while Tennessee may be down this year, they're still an SEC team with SEC talent, and the game was at home. Their other loss came in conference against Western Mich, who, oh by the way, is 7-2 on the year and 5-1 in the MAC. That loss was by a field goal. So, 3 losses, two out of conference against the Big 10 and SEC, but all by 4 points or less.
We can even pull two common opponents out to compare and see very similar results. Ball State knocked off Eastern Michigan 38-16 at home while No Illinois beat them 37-0 on the road. Ball State beat Toledo on the road 31-0 while No Illinois beat Toledo at home 38-7.
Northern Illinois ranks 9th in the country in total defense at 13.6 points per game. After opening the season with two losses and giving up 31 and 29 points, they have held their last 6 opponents to 13 points or less. They have also managed to score 37+ points in 3 of those 6 games and have scored 25 or more in 5 of their 8 games this year.
This line obviously is a result of the Ball State offense. An offense which has scored 31 or more in all but one game this year and in that game they scored 24. They can put points on the board, no question, but they'll be facing the best defense they have faced all year. This game is huge for both teams for many reasons. The MAC gets the chance to be under the spotlight in a game broadcast nationally. There is a top 20 national ranking on the line. There's the MAC conference on the line. A huge game all around almost guarantees a top effort from both sides.
We like to throw around yards per point numbers when applicable, and that's the case here. Both teams sport some nice ypp numbers with Northern Illinois 12 on offense and 19 on defense while Ball State weighs in with 12 on offense and a 22 on defense. Very good. Making a line using those numbers we'd make Ball State a 6 or 7 point favorite. 10 leaves too much wiggle room. Both teams also rank high in turnover margin.
Lastly, both of these teams are fully intact from a year ago. Virtually the same teams. A year ago Ball State took a 27-21 decision from Northern Illinois in a game that was close throughout. Northern Illinois has held the upper hand in this series winning 7 of the last 10.
This is one of those games that you break down, and say to yourself, I must be missing something as this line makes no sense. Perhaps we are missing something. But you can't let the thought that you MIGHT be missing something keep you from making a play. If you do, chances are, you'll leave plenty of winners on the table. You can't try to out think yourself. More times than not, you're not missing anything.
With that in mind, we'll make a play here on Northern Illinois in what should be an exciting MAC game that stays close enough throughout.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS +10
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