Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#111 Northern Illinois (NIU) vs.
#112 Michigan
Saturday, September 18, 2021 at 12:00pm EDT
Written by Blake V.

No. 25 Michigan will be looking for its third straight victory to open the season when it hosts Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies pulled off a huge upset in their season opener, but they lost to Wyoming last week. Michigan has beaten Western Michigan and Washington to open the season.

Huskies hoping to spring second upset

Northern Illinois opened the year with a massive upset, stunning Georgia Tech as an 18.5-point underdog. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who transferred from Michigan State, threw a touchdown pass in the final minute and added a 2-point conversion to lead his team to the win. The Huskies were unable to build on that momentum last week, though. They trailed Wyoming 42-16 late in the third quarter before scoring four straight touchdowns to take a 43-42 lead with under five minutes to play. The Cowboys answered with a touchdown to win the game.

Lombardi had some turnover issues, throwing three interceptions—he had not thrown three picks since losing to Iowa in November of 2020. The grad transfer finished 19 of 36 for 233 yards. Freshman running back Harrison Waylee had a phenomenal performance, rushing 26 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Cole Tucker had six catches for 72 yards. Lombardi threw for 323 yards and three scores in an upset win over Michigan last season. Senior wide receiver Tyrice Richie has caught seven passes for a team-high 104 yards.

Michigan running over opponents

No. 25 Michigan is off to an excellent start this season, but it has been in this position before during the John Harbaugh era. The Wolverines dominated Western Michigan in a 47-14 final during its season-opener. They picked up a more impressive win last Saturday, blowing out Washington in a game that ended 31-10. Running back Blake Corum had an excellent outing, rushing for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He has had a great start to the year, as he rushed for 111 yards and a pair of scores against the Broncos in the season opener. Corum gave all the credit to his offensive line following the win over Washington.

Overall, Michigan carried the ball 56 times for 343 yards and four touchdowns against Washington. Starting quarterback Cade McNamara has only thrown 26 passes through the first two games. He was 7 of 15 for 44 yards against the Huskies. The passing game was expected to be limited, as wide receiver Ronnie Bell is out for the season with a knee injury. Bell led the team in receiving the last two seasons and he had an excellent start against Western Michigan. The Wolverines are now left with true freshman A.J. Hening and junior Cornelius Johnson. They will be trying to find a third reliable target before conference play begins.

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I do have some concerns about Michigan once conference play begins, but this is a spot where the Wolverines should notch a blowout. They have so much more talent than their opponent and are not going to get burned for primarily running the ball. Michigan can line up and run the ball down Northern Illinois’ throat all night. Without Ronnie Bell, the Wolverines will rely even more on their ground attack. Lombardi might have pulled off an upset at the Big House last season, but he has less talent around him this year with the Huskies. He will also be facing a defense that is going to be very motivated.

Prediction: Michigan -27.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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Outside of triple-option teams, there is not a team in college football that relies on the rushing attack more than Michigan right now. The Wolverines are without their top wide receiver for the rest of the season, which has led Harbaugh to implement a heavy dose of the running game. They are going to bleed the clock against Northern Illinois. While I do expect Michigan to put up points at will, the rushing attack will let the clock move throughout the night. Lombardi was a turnover machine last week, so he is going to be more conservative in this game.

Prediction: Under 54
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Written By Blake Von Hagen , "Blake V."

Blake is a lifelong sports fan and hoops junkie. Prior to joining our team at Winners & Whiners and StatSalt, Blake worked for several newspapers and websites. He enjoys combining his beat writing expertise with the knack for finding the winning edge in a matchup. Blake is also an avid sports being expert and you would not be disappointed in following him on a daily basis. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.