• Not a Matchup of Powerhouses
  • Big Game for Both Teams
  • Bounce Back Season for Northern Illinois

Even though both of these teams are leading their respective MAC divisions, neither one is outscoring their opponents on the season and both have given up at least 60 points in a game. Kent State’s 4-4 record is bit deceiving, as they faced off against three Power Five teams, two of which were against Iowa and Texas A&M, who were ranked in the top ten at the time the games were played.

Third-year Northern Illinois head coach Thomas Hammock took over a program that had been to a bowl game in 10 of the prior 11 years, but he entered 2021 with a total record of 5-13 over his first two seasons at the helm, including 0-6 in 2020. Kent State has never had much success, so a win over Northern Illinois could set the stage for a special season.

Northern Illinois vs Kent State Matchup at a Glance

  • Sport: College Football
  • Teams: Northern Illinois at Kent State
  • Where: Kent, Ohio, Dix Stadium
  • Date: November 3
  • Betting Odds:
    • Spread: Northern Illinois -3.5 (-110)
    • Moneyline: Northern Illinois +150, Kent State -180
    • Total: 69 (-110 o/u) at PointsBet

Northern Illinois Preview: On a MAC Roll in Close Games

The Huskies are undefeated in their four conference contests, but every victory has come by no more than a one-possession margin, including a 39-38 win over Central Michigan in their most recent game, where they overcame a 17 point third-quarter deficit. Their 6-2 overall record and 4-0 conference marks are both the best in the MAC.

Northern Illinois relies on a strong running game, averaging almost 233 yards a game and 4.9 yards an attempt, but defensively they are allowing opponents to run for 5.3 yards a carry. They’ll need to continue to control the ball as they face a powerful Kent State offense that can also chew up yardage on the ground.

Kent State Preview: Need to Step Up on Defense

The Golden Flashes have jumped out to a 3-1 conference record and are at 4-4 overall despite three tough Power Five losses, but their lone MAC setback was a 64-31 shellacking by Western Michigan, where Kent State gave up 648 yards, including 341 on the ground. They righted the ship with a 34-27 win over Ohio in a game where they never trailed, but Kent State still allowed 457 total yards to the Bobcats.

For a program that has three bowl appearances in their football history, getting to 5-4 against one of the conferences’ traditional leaders would be an important development. Kent State can gain yards in bunches, averaging 450 a game, but they also give up 475 yards a contest, so they’ll need to play solid defense to come away with a win.

Odds & Free Betting Analysis for This College Football Game

Kent State is a surprising favorite, considering their lack of success against the best teams on their schedule. With close wins, Northern Illinois has had problems getting separation from their opponents, but they play tougher defense than Kent State and with the exception of a 63-10 beat down at Michigan, they’ve been able to match their opponents and have a 22-21 win over ACC member Georgia Tech. Look for Northern Illinois to exploit Kent State’s porous run defense in a close win.

Northern Illinois vs Kent State Pick

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Kevin Krest is the author of the PK Frazier series of four novels and the Beyond the Commentary blog with over 500 posts about the world of sports. Kevin covers golf, football and horse racing for and holds media credentials from the USGA, PGA, LPGA and Oaklawn Park.
As a media member, Kevin has attended and written in depth pieces about the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open and several other LPGA and PGA Tour Champions events.