Kent State vs. Northern Illinois MAC Football Championship Game Picks and Predictions

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Isaiah McKoy #23 of the Kent State Golden Flashes. Michael Chang/Getty Images/AFP

Kent State and Northern Illinois will compete for all the MAC glory. Here is betting advice for the championship game. Top Sportsbooks have released their odds for Saturday’s MAC Football Championship Game between Kent State and Northern Illinois.

Kent State advanced this far by beating Miami of Ohio last Saturday in a 48-47 overtime thriller. Northern Illinois already knew last week that it would participate in Saturday’s upcoming game. It knew this after beating Buffalo the week before, which clinched its spot in the championship game.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the total for this game at your favorite online sports betting site.

Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 12:00 EST at Ford Field

Odds

Saturday’s MAC Football Championship Game is a rematch of a Week 9 meeting that resulted in a 52-47 victory for Kent State, which was the home team. In that game, Kent State was favored by 3.5 points and the over/under was 72. The Golden Flashes thus barely covered while the game flew over the posted total. Given the switch in location -- Kent State is no longer the home team -- I find it odd that the Golden Flashes are basically favored by the same number of points.

Normally, a switch to a different venue would result in Kent State being favored by fewer points. Perhaps the persistent favor that Kent State receives from NCAAF Oddsmakers is a product of its most recent triumphs. In their last two games, the Golden Flashes easily covered the spread against Akron, shutting it out 38-0.

Last Saturday, Kent State covered the spread by achieving the minor upset over Miami (Ohio). Further improving public perception of Kent State in this game is the fact that Northern Illinois lost its last game, to Western Michigan, by 21 points, despite only being a seven-point underdog.

The First Meeting

What stands out to me is the fact that both teams, in their first meeting, combined for 99 points. Kent State accomplished a 31-point outburst in the second quarter while the Huskies scored 20 in the fourth quarter. Obviously, a lot of scoring happened otherwise. The Golden Flashes are uniquely equipped to produce these amazing scoring outbursts because they do not like to waste any time.

In this first meeting, they produced three touchdown drives that took less than a minute off the clock. Every other Kent State touchdown drive -- there were seven in total -- required fewer than two minutes. It’s not like the Golden Flashes were benefitting from a fortunate field position, either. Six of their seven touchdown drives required over 60 yards. While they maybe took a minute or so more per drive, Northern Illinois was nearly able to match Kent State’s scoring.

Something that impressed me about the Huskies’ offense in the game was the degree to which it succeeded despite diverging from usual tactics. The Huskies, this season, have primarily been a run-first team. They own the nation’s eighth-highest rushing play percentage. It’s not like running back Jay Ducker was having a bad game in any sense of the word at the hands of Kent State’s defense. But the Huskies were able to score in droves against Kent State primarily bypassing.

Former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi attempted 57 passes, 19 more than he’s thrown in any game all season. Lombardi amassed 532 yards and three touchdowns without allowing Kent State’s characteristically opportunistic defense to intercept him a single time. While there were instances of trickeration in the first meeting, neither team relied on scoring in that kind of unusual fashion.

Continuity 

Moving quickly is nothing new for the Golden Flashes, which ranks 10th nationally in plays per game. Keep this stat in mind for your Best Bets. The Golden Flashes always like to play fast, which results in shorter scoring drives, which means that more time remains for more scoring opportunities both for themselves and the other team.

Also, when the offense is on the field for less time, the defense gets less rest and plays more poorly. Both passing attacks promise to shine again.  Kent State just dropped 38 points in regulation against one of the MAC’s best scoring defenses in Miami of Ohio.

For Kent State, quarterback Dustin Crum accomplished a 163.3 passer rating in that game, despite throwing two interceptions. He had only thrown interceptions against Texas A&M.

For the increased rest that its offense allows its defense, Northern Illinois is unable to stop strong quarterbacks. In its last game, the Huskies allowed Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby to exceed 300 passing yards and achieve a ridiculous 253.4 passer rating. Games like this help explain why they rank 82nd nationally in limiting opposing passing yards per game.

Crum can take advantage, again, as he has been recognized for his statistically accurate downfield throwing, which nicely complements his regularly mistake-free play. Northern Illinois will have plenty of time and chances to respond to Crum and company with its pass attack facing Kent State’s 128th-ranked passing defense (as measured by opposing pass yards per game).

While Kent State’s run defense hardly ranks higher than its pass defense, the fact that it has produced instances of competent run defense might seem to give its defense hope, but not when the Huskies can demonstrably pass the ball at will.

The Verdict 

Expect a fast-paced game where neither defense stops the other offense from doing what it wants or, at least, what it’s more than capable of thriving at. For the above reasons, play the "over" with your NCAAF Picks.

NCAAF Pick: Over 73 at -110 with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.