Western Michigan has a scoring margin of plus-6.4 points per game against FBS opponents but they tend to start slowly, with a scoring margin of minus-2 ppg during the first quarter. They average just 5.8 ppg in the opening frame (71st in the country) while giving up 7.8 ppg (93rd). Bet on another slower start and take the home side on the 1H spread.
PICK: First Quarter Northern Illinois +2.5 (+100)
FIRST HALF BET
The Broncos might start slow in the first 15 minutes but they more than make up for that in the second quarter. They absolutely dominate that frame, ranking 16th in the FBS in scoring with 11.6 ppg and 11th in defense allowing just 4 ppg. Expect WMU to seperate from NIU in the second quarter and back them to go into halftime with a decent lead.
PICK: First Half Western Michigan -4.5 (-110)
NIU has allowed at least 27 points to six of their last seven opponents. The only program they held below 27 points were the Akron Zips who have the worst offense in the country putting up just 258.5 yards and 11.2 points per contest.
Western Michigan is much better on the offensive side of the ball, rolling up 467.2 yards and 36 points per game. Take the Over on WMU's team total.
PICK: Team Total Western Michigan Over 30.5 (-115)
FULL GAME TOTAL
The weather is something to keep an eye on as it's expected to be wet and windy at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois. If that's the case expect a sloppy game with both offenses shying away from passing the ball. That said, both teams excel on the ground while struggling to contain the run.
Led by running back LeVante Bellamy, the Broncos rush for 229.9 yards per game on 5.7 yards per rush attempt and should be able to run all over an NIU defense that gives up 5.4 yards per carry.
While the Huskies will be without starting quarterback Ross Bowers who is out due to a concussion, that might actually work out well for them since backup Marcus Childers is the better runner having gained 348 yards on 48 carries.
Northern Illinois running back Tre Harbison has rumbled for 1054 yards on 230 carries and should find success against a WMU defense that gives up 195.3 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry to FBS foes.
With the total set relatively low at 51 take the Over.
PICK: Over 51 (-110)
FULL GAME SIDE
Western Michigan is better on both sides of the ball than NIU. It certainly doesn't help the Huskies cause that their biggest weakness (stopping the run) lines up perfectly with the Broncos greatest strength of running the ball. And when WMU does want to pass downfield, quarterback Jon Wassink is more than capable of getting the job done having thrown for a conference high 2719 passing yards.
The Broncos are bowl eligible and can clinch the MAC West with a victory, which should make them very motivated to win, while the Huskies are out of postseason contention and might find it difficult to get fired up for this one.
Add in the fact the WMU has a turnover differential of plus-seven against FBS foes while NIU has a turnover differential of minus-seven and the Huskies could be due for their third bad loss in the last four weeks. Lay the points with the visitors.
PICK: Western Michigan -8.5 (-110)