Northern Illinois’ success and expectations have had their highs and lows throughout the last decade.
After winning the MAC title in 2014, the Huskies were among the favorites the next two years but were then +1000 in 2017. At 2/1 odds in 2018, they went on to win their fourth conference title and won another in 2021 after being at 25/1 preseason odds to do so. NIU also doubled their projected win total that year, going 8-5 in the regular season.
Last year, it was nearly the opposite, where the Huskies’ win total was at 7 but the lowly season resulted in 3 wins. Ahead of the 2023 campaign, college football betting odds via BetMGM list their win total at 5.5 games as they look to bounce back.
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Games to like
The Huskies host Southern Illinois in Week 2 for the first meeting between the teams since 2007. This should be a victory for the home team, but the Huskies can’t overlook this MVFC member who knocked off the Big Ten’s Northwestern last year. NIU’s next home game should be its next win when Tulsa heads to DeKalb in Week 4 to finish the non-conference slate.
Oct. 7 at Akron will likely be NIU’s first league win before it enters a two-game home stretch against a pair of quality teams in Ohio and Eastern Michigan. I like the Huskies to split these games, giving them their second conference win and fourth of the season.
With four games to go at this point and the rest of the schedule looking light, the Huskies should be in good shape to secure a winning record.
Following the date with EMU, NIU will visit Central Michigan, host Ball State and then host Western Michigan. Keep in mind, all of these games are on a Tuesday, so things can get dicey during some midweek MACtion, but the Huskies will be favorites in all three of these contests.
And after a bye week, NIU will cap the regular season with a win at Kent State.
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Games not to like
A pair of Power 5 opponents will help prepare the Huskies for conference play. It visits Boston College in Week 1 and Nebraska in Week 3. While the trip to Lincoln looks like a loss, I wouldn’t put it past the Huskies to start the year 1-0.
Currently, they’re 9.5-point dogs against BC and this line will move toward NIU as the game nears, but with the Eagles returning 15 starters and the Huskies’ top offensive players returning after dealing with injuries last season, expecting an upset is a lot to ask for. If this game was in Week 3 or 4, I might lean in the other direction.
Sept. 30 features a road game versus Toledo, which is a tough spot to open conference play. And as mentioned above, I think the Huskies will split against Ohio and EMU.
Considering how easy the Huskies’ late-season conference schedule looks and that they get two of their toughest conference outings at home, they should be in contention to finish atop the MAC West.
It’s very likely NIU finishes the season 4-0, meaning they only need to win two of their first eight games to go over the 5.5 wins, which is definitely the play here. Although currently at -160, the number should increase to a total of 6 or even 6.5, which still looks like a good bet in what will be a resurgent season for Rocky Lombardi, Trayvon Rudolph, and this potent offense.