Ball State at Northern Illinois
Time: 2:30 PM CST, Saturday
Spread: NOI -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Ball State is 1-3 after having lost two straight to NC State and Florida Atlantic. It defeated Forman in Week 2 and lost to Indiana in Week 1. The Cardinals are 0-1 on the road where it faces Northern Illinois as 5.5-point underdogs in Week 6. The over/under is set at 56 points according to NCAA football oddsmakers at 5dimes.
Ball State thus far has followed its typical course in being a pretty good offensive team and a fairly poor defensive one. The Cardinals rank No. 45 in scoring 33.8 per contest, but it surrenders 34.5 and is 1-3. The Cardinals have a top-10 pass offense that generates 344.5 yards per game, but it gets just 125.8 via the rush (No. 102).
Ball State starting quarterback Drew Plitt has been outstanding despite the team’s lack of overall success. He has thrown for 1,373 yards at a 67.6 percent clip with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Plitt has not been great rushing, though, with just 24 yards on his 23 carries. Caleb Huntley is the No. 1 backfield option with 62 carries for 283 yards an three touchdowns.
Walter Fletcher serves as the No. 2 option with 30 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. Ball State has five receivers with 150 yards or more on the season, paced by Riley Miller’s 306 yards on 22 receptions. Justin Hall leads the team in catches (24) and Antwan Davis is the team TD leader with three TD receptions. Ball State has scored 11 touchdowns via the pass with just five scored via the rush, so its end zone M.O. is fairly clear. The Cardinals’ kicking has been decent, with Ryan Rimmler having connected on 5 of 8 field goals and 14 of 14 PATs. He has missed two of his three field goals from beyond 40 yards, though he has hit a long of 43-yards this season.
The stars of the defense have been Jacob White at linebacker and safety Bryce Cosby. White has 27 solo tackles and 47 total, and Cosby has 23 solo tackles and 30 overall. The Cardinals have just three sacks on the season, with defensive en James Jennette III having two of those and the other belonging to linebacker Jordan Williams.
Northern Illinois is 1-3 after having suffered its third straight loss with its 18-24 loss to Vanderbilt. It lost to Nebraska prior to that and also lost to Utah in Week 2. The lone win of the year has been a 24-10 win over Illinois State in Week 1. The Huskies have not been particularly close in its three losses, with last week’s six-point loss being an improvement over the 36-point drubbing from Nebraska or the 18-point loss to Utah.
Northern Illinois is averaging just 19.8 points per game this year while giving up 28.3 thus far. The pass offense ranks No. 41 and generates 272.5 yards per game, but its rush attack ranks among the worst at just 84.8 yards per game (No. 127). Top running back Tre Harbison has been fair with his 224 yards on 54 attempts, but he has no rushing touchdowns. None of the top rushers do. Marcus Jones has one, and quarterback Russ Bowers has one, but neither of them is at all factors in the overall rush game with Bowers having rushed for negative-59 yards on the year and Jones with negative-1 yards on the season.
Bowers is also throwing under 60 percent and has three interceptions to his four touchdowns while having been sacked 13 times for a total loss of 87-yards. There are plenty of things that the Huskies have to improve, but QB protection and getting more from its top rushers rank atop that list. The Huskies average just 2.8 yards-per-attempt on its 123 carries this season, despite Harbison and Jordan Nettles both being overall fairly good. Nettles averages 4.7 yards-per-carry and has the long-rush of 34 yards this season. The Huskies have just three rushers who have gone for 11 yards or more, and Bowers has been the worst of all options averaging nearly negative-3 yards per attempt.