Northern Illinois vs. Ball State prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Huskies and Cardinals in Saturday’s MAC clash.
Northern Illinois vs. Ball State Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 1 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, Ind.
TV Broadcast: ESPN3
Northern Illinois has gone from MAC power to an afterthought over the last season-plus. The Huskies have dropped seven straight dating back to last season and fell to 0-4 this year with a 28-23 loss to in-state FCS foe Western Illinois. Injuries have played a role – senior quarterback Drew Hare is out for the season – but going winless through the non-conference schedule certainly wasn’t expected.
In Muncie, first-year coach Mike Neu has Ball State off to a solid 3-1 start, with the only defeat being at Indiana. The Cardinals rallied for a 31-27 win at FAU last week, as quarterback Riley Neal rushed for a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. The sophomore has been one of the main reasons for the great start.
What to Know About Northern Illinois
Not only did NIU get beat by an FCS team, it trailed by 21 points in the third quarter before making it interesting. Ryan Graham started under center, but Anthony Maddie finished and completed 11 of 16 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown to help lead the comeback. Coach Rod Carey hasn’t made a decision on who will start this week
Neither of them can help solve the problems defensively, though. The Huskies are allowing an average of 499 yards per game and finally held an opponent to fewer than 200 rushing last week.
What to Know About Ball State
NIU will have to keep a close eye on Neal at all times. He’s thrown five touchdown passes but also has rushed for three and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Neal ran for 74 yards and even had a 10-yard reception last week. He’s by far the Cardinals’ biggest offensive threat.
Ball State has been solid against the run, holding opponents to 124 yards on the ground the last two weeks combined.
Offense: Ball State – Neal can hand off to James Gilbert should he need some help in the running game.
Defense: Ball State – NIU’s defense has been incredibly bad.
Special Teams: Ball State – The Cardinals have a special teams touchdown this season, and NIU might be punting a lot.
Coaching: Ball State – Carey is having a lot of problems in DeKalb right now.
Intangibles: Northern Illinois – The Huskies have won the last seven meetings.
Matchup To Watch
Neal vs. NIU’s defense
The reason to watch this is to find out how many total yards Neal will account for. He’s going to have the ball in his hands for the majority of the game, and the Huskies haven’t been able to stop anyone.
Spread: Ball State -4
Northern Illinois vs. Ball State Prediction
Neal finishes with four total touchdowns and the Huskies wind up using both quarterbacks who prove to be ineffective in Ball State’s victory.
Northern Illinois vs. Ball State final score prediction: Ball State 37, Northern Illinois 20