Kentucky football game Saturday: Kentucky vs. N. Illinois odds and prediction for Week 4

Matchup
Northern Illinois Huskies
1-2
Kentucky Wildcats
3-0
Saturday, Sept 24
7 PM ET
ESPN
Kentucky -25.5

Week four of the college football season and for the Kentucky football team despite enjoying successes and milestones thus far it’s quantum leap week for the Wildcats who need their offense in particular to experience this.

No, we are not talking about the rebooted television show here, but more the definition of quantum leap which by definition means a huge, often sudden, increase or advance in something.

Kentucky is looking to extend its nation’s best non-conference winning streak of 18 games in a Saturday night tilt with Northern Illinois at Kroger Field.

Sure the UK team is undefeated through three games with wins over Miami of Ohio, Florida, and last week’s shutout of Youngstown State. This has earned them national recognition by being ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll this week and No. 9 in the Coaches Poll.

But it didn’t take coach Mark Stoops long to point out that this team is not clicking on all cylinders and playing up to par to his or Big Blue Nation’s liking.

“After reviewing the film, really kind of disappointed and a little unhappy with some of the undisciplined play that we had this past week. Not to take away from so many players who did a great job. Defensively, it was a very good effort once again. Offensively, there’s some things we’ve got to get ironed out. Just felt like it was a person here, a person there…

“Undisciplined play. Any time you have 10 penalties, three turnovers, four fumbles and you do that at home, it just shows you that the attention to detail was not there.”

So Week 4 has another MAC opponent with the Huskies coming to Lexington for one final tuneup before the Southeastern Conference schedule gets into full gear next week with the Cats going to Ole Miss. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

For the casual onlooker, this game would be a cakewalk and Kentucky would have a lot of guys see action in an expected easy win.

Don’t count on that.

The Wildcat defense is running well despite the loss of JJ Weaver for several games after he left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury and isn’t on this week’s depth chart. Stoops said it didn’t look like he would play. Weaver is tied for the team lead in tackles with 15 and Alex Afari Jr. who has played extremely well will slide into that linebacker slot for now from safety.

It’s the offensive side of the ball that is a bit discombobulated so far across the board and must solidify itself this week and has left Stoops agitated and looking for improvement.

Chris Rodriguez remains sidelined under suspension until next week and Ramone Jefferson was injured in the Miami game. That left Kavosiey Smoke and JuThan McClain to carry much of the load.

The Wildcats tallied just 103 rushing yards on 36 carries against Youngstown, and 109 yards rushing on 37 carries in the road win at Florida. Quarterback Will Levis getting sacked 11 times isn’t helping matters either.

These backs need to find their footing, stride, holes, and daylight to run this week and that should happen.

The Huskies defense has given up 103 points in three games due to allowing 169 yards rushing and 265.5 yards passing per game. Their 1-2 record includes a 38-35 loss at Tulsa and a 38-28 home loss to Vanderbilt last week.

Look for offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello to feed the backs and get them lots of touches to get them energized and effective.

The passing game is intact and our receivers can clearly catch as well and a strong tight end corp with underutilized Brenden Bates especially. An average of 11 different balls are caught almost weekly.

However, Stoops wants to see better blocking from them as well and not as many missed assignments. Another area to watch for improvements.

Guys on the offensive side are tired of getting tired of the same questions regarding their performance through three games.  This game is where that narrative changes.

Kentucky vs Northern Illinois Odds Week 4

Spread: Kentucky -25.5
Over/under: 53.5
Moneyline:  Kentucky -3,500, Youngstown St. +1,280

Kentucky is 5-0-1 Against the spread in their last 6 games.
Kentucky is 10-1 Straight up in their last 11 home games.
The total has gone Under in 4 of Kentucky’s last 5 games.

Kentucky football hasn’t allowed a team to score in 6 straight quarters.

Northern Illinois is 1-11 straight up (SU) vs SEC foes, but 10-2 against the spread (ATS).
The total has hit the over in all three of NIU’s games this year, and 6 of their last 7 overall.

Kentucky vs Northern Illinois Prediction Week 4

This Kentucky football team doesn’t need a statement win this week – they need a statement game.

We would love to see the defense put up another second straight shutout like the 31-0 one over Youngstown State, but that seems a bit unlikely facing a team that runs the ball very well and will move the chains.

The Wildcats haven’t allowed a point in six straight quarters so it’s easy to see them motivated to continue that streak.

The Big Blue defense ranks 12th in the nation in scoring defense through three games, allowing just 9.67 points per game, and is 14th in the country in total defense, giving up a mere 253.7 yards per game.

Through three games only twice have they allowed a touchdown.

Offensively we want the offense to smoothly shift gears when it needs to, block better so Will Levis has time to get the ball downfield and have a back run for over 100 yards and another come close.

With Lane Kiffen and the Ole Miss assault coming next week it’s time to show the SEC and college football fans this team is ready to challenge for the SEC East title.

I’ll take Kentucky 45, Northern Illinois 9