The Northern Illinois Huskies will look to pick up their fourth straight victory when they host the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday afternoon in a MAC matchup. Bowling Green enters the weekend at 2-4 (0-2 MAC) after suffering a 35-20 upset loss to the Akron Zips last Saturday as a 14-point home favorite. Northern Illinois is coming off a dramatic 22-20 win over the Toledo Rockets last Saturday as a 13-point underdog to improve to 4-2 (2-0 MAC) on the season.
This is a tight series historically with Bowling Green holding a 12-10 advantage all-time. Northern Illinois won the most recent meeting 28-17 back in 2017.
Bowling Green melts down in second half against AkronIt has been a great season so far for a Bowling Green team that is far more competitive than anyone expected, but the Falcons came undone as a big favorite against Akron last weekend. Things got off to a great start with Tyrone Broden scoring on a 40-yard touchdown reception just three minutes in to help Bowling Green build a 13-7 lead, but the Zips would reel off 28 straight points in the second half and Broden's second touchdown catch with 8:03 left wasn't enough for a rally.
Quarterback Matt McDonald had a rough afternoon, completing 21 of 35 pass attempts for 257 yards. two touchdowns and three interceptions. Jaison Patterson was effective running the ball with 15 carries for 79 yards, while Broden had a standout performance with four catches for 111 yards and two scores. Bowling Green was only outgained 385-364, but couldn't overcome five turnovers.
“I can’t wait to get back in the office, because I know this football team is habits away from being good. I think our guys are great. They’re young and the process stinks. But it is the process. I knew we’d be better, and we are so much better, we’re not anywhere near ready at times, but it’s going to be fun to teach," head coach Scott Loeffler said to Bowling Green's official website as he continues in year three of a massive rebuild.
The Falcons have been an outstanding team to gamble on at 5-1 against the spread, with the highlight coming three weeks ago in a huge upset over the Minnesota Golden Gophers as a 30.5-point underdog. Overs are just 1-5 for the Falcons, but finally got on the board last Saturday as the Akron game cleared the total of 46.5 points.
Despite the solid start to the year, Bowling Green's offense is struggling with an average of 17.7 points and 293.8 yards per game. The defense has kept the Falcons in games, with opponents putting up 23.7 points and 344.2 yards per game.
McDonald will hope to pick things up a bit, as he's completed 139 of 213 pass attempts for 1,406 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions while adding three scores on the ground. Broden is a standout playmaker with 22 catches for 358 yards and three touchdowns. Darren Anders is having a huge year to lead the Bowling Green defense with 54 tackles including 5.5 for loss, two sacks, a pick six and a forced fumble.
The running backs room is a little shorthanded for Bowling Green, as Terion Stewart has missed three games with a lower-body injury and is questionable while Trevon Raymore suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Northern Illinois wins behind Richardson's five field goalsAfter struggling in the first two years under head coach Thomas Hammock, the Huskies are finally starting to get going again this season and picked up a nice upset win on the road at Toledo last weekend with a dramatic late field goal. The Huskies' lone touchdown came with time winding down in the first half on Antario Brown's 37-yard run, and five field goals from John Richardson including the game-winner with 26 seconds left after Northern Illinois drove 60 yards on nine plays in 3:02 proved to be enough otherwise.
Quarterback Rocky Lombardi struggled through the air, completing 14 of 24 passes for 154 yards and an interception, although he was effective as a scrambler with 12 carries for 90 yards. Brown racked up 93 yards and the touchdown on 24 carries, while Tyrice Richie had a big game with eight catches for 98 yards. Northern Illinois finished with a 396-371 advantage in total yards, and the defense held Toledo to 1-10 on third down while stopping the Rockets three times on fourth down.
"Offensively, our guys came out and were attacking, our offensive line was blocking well, the backs were running hard and then the quarterback run game really helps you out. That was a great defense we played today, and our guys stepped up to the challenge," Hammock said to Northern Illinois' website after the game about the huge road win.
Northern Illinois has been a good team to gamble on against the spread at 4-1-1, including an outright win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to open the season as a 19-point underdog. Overs are 2-4 for the Huskies, with each of their last three games going under the betting total.
After struggling badly on offense for a number of years, Northern Illinois has shown improvement with an average of 27.5 points and 380.3 yards per game. Northern Illinois' overall defensive numbers are not good with opponents putting up 31.4 points and 411.2 yards per contest, although things are trending in the right direction over their last three games.
Lombardi, a transfer from Michigan State, has completed 79 of 138 pass attempts for 935 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions while adding 43 carries for 320 yards and four scores. Richie is his top target with 29 carries for 315 yards, while Cole Tucker is also a big-play threat with 12 carries for 206 yards and a score. Lance Deveaux Jr. is the leader of the Northern Illinois defense with 37 tackles including five for a loss, one sack and a forced fumble.
Leading rusher Harrison Waylee, who has 101 carries for 574 yards and four touchdowns on the season, missed last weekend's game with an undisclosed injury and is questionable. Tucker is also questionable after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury. Tight end Miles Joiner and safety Devin Lafayette are also both out indefinitely.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
While Bowling Green is headed in the right direction, last week's ugly loss showed this is still a rebuilding squad while Northern Illinois looks like one of the better MAC teams right now. The Huskies have already picked up two wins over solid MAC opponents and will pull away from Bowling Green's struggling offense here as the more well-rounded team.
Even though Bowling Green is an improved team overall, the offense still isn't doing much with 4.2 yards per play against FBS opposition to rank in the bottom 10 nationally, and no team in college football averages few rushing yards per game. This is a good matchup for the Northern Illinois defense, which has been well above average apart from a two-week span where it gave up a combined 111 points to Wyoming and No. 8 Michigan while featuring a solid pass rush that can bother the Falcons.
Northern Illinois is the significantly better team offensively at 5.6 yards per play, as Lombardi can do a lot of damage with his legs while Richie has been a tough cover as a possession receiver with 20 catches for 216 yards in the last three weeks. Bowing Green looks like it will be back in the top half of the MAC soon enough, but the offense isn't quite ready to compete with a good team on the road just yet.
Full-Game Total Pick
Bowling Green is more competitive this season because of its defense, which is top 25 nationally in efficiency with 4.7 yards per play allowed and has turned in a number of impressive performances including limiting a Big Ten foe in Minnesota to 10 points. The Huskies offense is solid, but is held back currently by potential injuries to two key players, as Waylee is having an excellent year with 5.7 yards per carry while Tucker is the team's best deep threat at receiver.
Turnovers are a huge concern for both offenses, as each starting quarterback has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and the Falcons are reeling in particular after giving the ball away five times last week. Both offenses also operate at a below average tempo, and the limited passing games won't do enough to clear this total.