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NCAA Football Game Preview: Western Michigan at Northern Illinois – 11/23

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Game: Western Michigan Broncos at Northern Illinois Huskies  

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET 

Odds: Broncos -3.5, Huskies +3.5 

Total: 61 

For many teams, the 2021 college football season moves into its final week. That’s the case for Western Michigan and Northern Illinois, two teams that will play the final MAC-tion Tuesday game of the year. The two teams have been headed in different directions since the start of the season. 

Western Michigan (6-5, 3-4) began this season 4-1 with the only loss coming to now sixth-ranked Michigan in the first game of the year. The Broncos are one of only two teams to beat Pitt. Since that 4-1 start, the Broncos have lost four of their last six games. One of the biggest issues has been defense. Even in their win over Pitt (44-41), WMU gave up 41 points.  

In the six games since the 4-1 start, opponents of Western Michigan have scored an average of 35 points per game. They are also averaging over six yards per play. For the season, the Broncos give up an average of 29.8 points per game. That ranks 107th in the nation. 

Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1) started this season with a 1-2 record. One of its losses was also to Michigan, but since that loss, the Huskies are 7-1. The only loss was a close one. NIU dropped a 52-47 decision at Kent State in the first week of MAC-tion play. 

Over the course of their last five games, the Huskies have scored at least 30 points in each game. The big reason for their success is a ground game that is one of the best in the nation. In four of those last five games, NIU has rushed for at least 197 yards. For the season, the Huskies rush for an average of 228.5 yards per game. That ranks 11th in the country. NIU averages 31.6 points per game, but like Western Michigan, the Huskies have some difficulties on defense. They actually give up more points per game – 32.7 – than the Broncos. 

Western Michigan also relies heavily on the run. They rank in the top 40 in the nation averaging 193.9 rushing yards per game. Sean Tyler leads the team with 889 yards. La’Darius Jefferson adds another 766 and a team-high 10 touchdowns. While the two teams are similar in that sense, the similarities end with consistency. 

NIU is 7-3-1 ATS this season. That includes a 3-1 ATS mark over the last four games. The only loss came in the loss to Kent State when the Huskies lost by five as a 3.5-point underdog. The Broncos, on the other hand, have four straight ATS losses and have just one ATS win in their last seven games. Ironically, Western Michigan’s only ATS win came in a 64-31 win over Kent State, a game in which the Broncos were favored by seven points. 

Both teams have been trending Over in game totals. Four of the last five NIU totals went Over and four of the last six WMU totals have gone Over.