Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss Northern Illinois' status as the betting favorite against Purdue.
Nitz: Northern Illinois opened as a 3.5-point favorite at Purdue. Now, the Boilermakers have certainly struggled so far this season, but the Huskies haven't exactly been firing on all cylinders the past couple weeks. Does NIU deserve to be favored on the road against a Big Ten team?
Jacobson: Yes. Period. While the Huskies have struggled against Idaho and Eastern Illinois, they have managed to pull out wins. Looking at Purdue's resume thus far, there's little that suggests this is a very good football team, possibly the worst in the Big Ten. They were blown out by a Cincinnati team that lost to Illinois and squeaked past Miami (Ohio). Like NIU, the Boilermakers couldn't pull away from an FCS opponent in Indiana State and they were crushed by Wisconsin in their Big Ten opener. The only glimmer of hope was the close home loss to Notre Dame, which has struggled to score against anybody.
The Boilermakers are averaging only 15 points per game and are the third-worst team in the nation in total offense. Right now, NIU averages more than twice as many yards per game as Purdue.
Nitz: I wasn't surprised when I saw Vegas had NIU favored (and it's always tough to argue with Vegas), but after NIU's struggles last week I wasn't sure it would be by 3.5 points.
Here's a question for you, will NIU be an underdog at all the rest of the season?
Jacobson: Assuming there aren't consecutive losses to Kent St., Akron and Eastern Michigan, I don't think they will be. With a 22-game winning streak at Huskie Stadium, NIU will certainly be favored in its four remaining home games, even against Ball St. The only game that could possibly see NIU as an underdog is the Huskies' visit to the Glass Bowl in Toledo. Their last trip there, NIU was a 9.5-point underdog, but came away with a 63-60 win. Yet that was before NIU won two consecutive MAC championships and played in the Orange Bowl.
Nitz: I do think the Huskies will be favored the rest of the way, with the possible exception of that Toledo game you just mentioned.
The Glass Bowl has been a tough place to play for the Huskies as they're just 3-18 all-time there. The Rockets are 2-2 but have played two SEC teams on the road. We have a long time until that game, but if I had to set a line now, I would install Toledo as a slight favorite on Nov. 20.