Game time: 2:30 p.m. ET, Oct. 2, 2021
Venue: Husky Stadium, DeKalb, IL
Where to watch: ESPN+
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Northern Illinois -2.5; O/U 63.5; NIU -125, Eastern Michigan +105
BetMGM: Northern Illinois -2; O/U 63.5; NIU -120, Eastern Michigan +100
Caesars: Northern Illinois -2; O/U 62.5; NIU -130, Eastern Michigan +110
Eastern Michigan: 3-1
Northern Illinois: 2-2
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Eastern Michigan - Northern Illinois preview and analysis
Eastern Michigan: won 59-21 vs. Texas State
Northern Illinois: won 41-14 vs. Maine
It may not be the most dominant home-field advantage anymore, but Huskie Stadium will still be a monumental advantage for the Northern Illinois Huskies when they face the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Saturday in the MAC opener for both teams.
The Huskies are coming off a 27-point win over the Maine Black Bears. NIU's offense put up 574 yards of total offense and 29 first downs. The NIU defense also did its thing by keeping Maine to 26:30 time of possession while shutting them out 20-0 in the second half.
It was a dominant showing for quarterback Rocky Lombardi. Not only did he have an efficient day passing the ball with 282 yards and a touchdown, but he ran for three scores as well to cap off a 119-yard day, including a 64-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Cole Tucker had 114 yards receiving, and Tyrice Richie had a game-high seven receptions for 76 yards.
Not to mention leading tailback Harrison Waylee pitched in for 130 yards of his own and a touchdown to propel a 292-yard day on the ground.
That dominant performance snapped a two-game losing streak at the hands of Wyoming and a 53-point loss to the Michigan Wolverines (no shame considering how good they appear to be now, Big Ten play could change some things).
Eastern Michigan has had a better tart to the season despite a 27-point loss to now-unranked Wisconsin. But while the Eagles are 3-1, coming off a 38-point win over the Texas State Bobcats last week, have two unimpressive victories under their belt -- a 20-point win vs. FCS St. Francis, and then a failure to cover against the Massachusetts Minutemen despite winning by 14.
But if Northern Illinois can recapture that offensive magic from last week, they could put something on EMU. The Eagles defense has given up 407 total yards, including 193.8 on the ground. That run defense is going against an NIU squad that runs for 215.5 per game.
The Eagles' running attack has to be at its best. Eastern Michigan is 11-13 against the money line when they only average between 3.5 and 4 yards per carry. If they can't match the 5.5-yard clip they got against Texas State, it could be a long day for the Eagles.
Eastern Michigan has been an average team against the spread, and with them only getting a few points on the road, I wouldn't trust this one too much. I like Northern Illinois at home in what should be an entertaining game with the Huskies pulling away late. NIU by 15
Eastern Michigan is 5-3 against the spread as a road dog in its last eight.
Northern Illinois is 3-2 ATS in its last five as a home favorite.
Players to watch
Eastern Michigan: Defensive back David Carter Jr. has two interceptions this season.
Northern Illinois: Waylee is averaging 5.5 yards per carry as NIU’s top rusher.
Passing: Ben Bryant -- 675 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Jawon Hamilton -- 239 yards, 3 TD
Receiving: Dylan Drummond -- 201 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Terry Myrick -- 19 tackles
Passing: Rocky Lombardi -- 697 yards, 5 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Harrison Waylee -- 487 yards, 4 TD
Receiving: Cole Tucker -- 206 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Lance Deveaux Jr. -- 32 tackles
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