Coming off its first loss of the season, the Northern Illinois football team is looking to bounce back with a home meeting against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. CT at Huskie Stadium.
Oddsmakers believe NIU will get back in the win column this week, though it will certainly be a competitive contest. Caesars Sportsbook, the official odds partner of Bet Chicago Sports, has Northern Illinois as a 2.5-point favorite over Vanderbilt with a total of 59.5 points as of Thursday evening.
The Huskies are certainly looking to put last week’s performance behind them. They suffered a 38-35 loss to Tulsa that came down to the wire. The Golden Hurricane recorded the go-ahead score in the final minute and then registered a game-sealing interception to put the game away.
NIU had to overcome a 24-7 halftime deficit in a game that featured four lead changes down the stretch. But it marked the second consecutive contest that the Huskies were unable to put together four solid quarters, as they faltered in the second half of their opener against Eastern Illinois in a matchup that ended up being closer than it needed to be.
Close games are nothing new for Northern Illinois, of course. Dating back to 2019, 21 of NIU’s 34 games have been decided by one score. The Huskies are an impressive 8-4 in one-score games over the last two seasons, so this team is set up to thrive in a game that is projected to be within a field goal.
This will be Vanderbilt’s final game before SEC play, meaning this one is important because wins will be hard to come by in league play. Vandy owns a 6-1 record in its past seven road nonconference matchups, including this year’s season-opening win at Hawaii. The Commodores are 2-1 entering this week’s matchup after suffering a 45-22 loss to Wake Forest last weekend. Senior running back Ray Davis has led Vanderbilt through the first three games, averaging 89.7 yards per game.
As a result, I’m inclined to bet the under in a battle featuring two teams that will likely lean on the ground game on Saturday.
So far this season, the Huskies have run the ball 55.3% of the time while the Commodores have done so 50% of the time. The former is averaging -0.10 EPA (expected points added) per run, while Vandy has a clip of 0.12 EPA per run. That style of play has led to both squads averaging fewer than 69 offensive snaps per game through the early part of the season.
My best bets have come through in each of the first two Northern Illinois matchups, with the over cashing in Week 1 and the NIU spread getting to the window last weekend. So, let’s test my perfect record with an under ahead of Saturday.
Pick: Under 59.5