It’s officially conference championship season in college football, with plenty of marquee matchups taking place in the upcoming week. While the news of Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for USC will steal the spotlight, let’s not forget that we have some MAC action this weekend.
Northern Illinois already locked up a spot in the MAC Championship Game before this previous week, but Kent State punched their ticket with a narrow win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. So we have a battle of the 8-4 Northern Illinois Huskies against the 7-5 Kent State Golden Flashes on December 4th at 12 p.m. EST.
Along with their win over Miami (Ohio) this past week, Kent State comes into this game having won four out of their past five games. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois has lost two of their last four games, including their latest double-digit defeat to Western Michigan on November 23rd.
Whoever wins on Saturday between Kent State and Northern Illinois will have an opportunity to clinch a spot against a power five school in a bowl game to finish the season.
All NCAAF gameday odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and updated as of 11:00 a.m. ET on November 29, 2021.
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois: MAC Championship Game Prediction
Coming into this showdown, Kent State is undoubtedly the hotter team. The Golden Flashes have won six of their last eight games, including a 52-47 victory over Northern Illinois back on November 3rd.
Neither Kent State nor Northern Illinois is known for their stifling defense this season. Entering this weekend, the Golden Flashes are giving up 34.6 points per game (16th worst in the nation), while the Huskies are surrendering 33.5 points per game (20th worst in the country).
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Similar to what we got on November 3rd, we could get another shootout this week in a pivotal MAC Championship. Dustin Crum leads Kent State at quarterback, who has thrown for 2,813 yards, 15 touchdowns, and four interceptions this season.
While Crum has added 565 yards and another 11 touchdowns with his legs, it’s Marquez Cooper that heads Kent State’s backfield with 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Northern Illinois shouldn’t forget about Dante Cephas, Kent State’s best wide receiver that concluded the season with 1,022 yards and eight touchdowns on 71 receptions.
As for the Huskies, their offense goes through Rocky Lombardi at the quarterback position. The Michigan State transfer has thrown for 2,314 yards, 13 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2021.
Lombardi was absent from Northern Illinois’ last game, which resulted in a loss to Western Michigan. When Lombardi faced this Kent State team in early November, he had one of the best outings of his collegiate career, throwing for 532 yards and three touchdowns.
With Lombardi back under center and Jevyon Ducker rushing for 100-plus yards in five of his last six games for Northern Illinois, I believe the Huskies will win as the underdogs on Saturday. However, injuries to Tyrice Richie and Harrison Waylee could loom large for Northern Illinois.
MAC Championship Game Prediction: Northern Illinois 44, Kent State 40
MAC Championship Game Best Bets
CFB Betting Record: 12-4-0
Best Bet: Northern Illinois +3 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
The return of Lombardi for Northern Illinois will be massive this week against a familiar foe in Kent State. Having your starting quarterback available is valuable, believe it or not, as shown by the Huskies’ lopsided loss to Western Michigan to finish the regular season.
All signs may point to side with Kent State, as they are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games, and they are 4-2 against the spread in their past six meetings with Northern Illinois. However, Northern Illinois has a solid 6-3 record against the spread in their last nine games, and they are 7-2 straight up in those nine contests.
This game could very well come down to one team either kicking a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown or if there is a turnover by either quarterback. Anyone that is a fan of defense may not want to watch this game on Saturday because there likely won’t be many stops on either side.
That being said, I’ll give the slight edge to Northern Illinois to keep it within three or fewer points, or even win outright, against their MAC counterparts.
Best Bet: Over 73.5 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Let’s have some fun with this one, shall we? The projected total is at a whopping 73.5 points over at Caesars, a large number regardless of what teams are squaring off.
Some people may avoid betting on the over with the total being such an enormous number, but we are rooting for a high-scoring affair in this one. Just as a reminder, the last time these two teams met in November, there were 99 points scored between them.
Also, the last time these two teams met in the MAC Championship back in 2012, there were 81 points scored in a double-overtime thriller. Whenever Kent State and Northern Illinois face one another, there seem to be fireworks throughout the entire contest.
On the season, Kent State averages 33.3 points per game on offense (31st in the nation) compared to 30.8 points per game by Northern Illinois (51st in the nation). With both of these defenses being friendly to opposing offenses, scoring shouldn’t be much of an issue at Ford Field.
The over has hit in five of the last seven games that Kent State has taken part in. On the other hand, the over is 5-1 in the last six games for Northern Illinois, while they’ve also hit the over in five of their last six games against an opponent in the MAC.
Thanks for reading our MAC Championship Predictions & Best Bets! For more CFB betting tips, check out our CFB Conference Championship Predictions.