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The Northwestern football team is coming off its biggest game (and loss) of the past decade. They had Ohio State on the ropes before eventually fumbling it away in the fourth quarter. To come back to a road game at a Wisconsin team coming off a bye is a bit brutal. The lines makers know this and that's why the Badgers are -10.5 point home favorites at top sportsbooks.
The last time these teams played was back in 2010, so it's hard to look at any of the previous matchups. Although, it is worth mentioning that the home team has won six straight games in this series.
Wisconsin is coming in refreshed off a bye, but also a disappointing loss against Ohio State. In fact, the Badgers haven't really impressed anyone yet as their best win is against Purdue. That's the main reason they aren't the ranked team in this game. The question is how much better is Wisconsin at home? Their defense struggled in the two road losses, but dominated against lesser opponents at home.
Offensively, everyone knows what the Badgers are going to do. They have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, led by Melvin Gordon (698 yards, seven TDs) and James White (473 yards, four TDs). QB Joel Stave has been the weak link, but it's not like he's losing games for them. Stave and Jared Abbrederis (572 yards, four TDs) have been able to beat any defense, including the Buckeyes when the two hooked up for 207 yards and a TD.
Northwestern's problem is on the defensive end and will likely be why they lose this game. They allowed 248 rushing yards to OSU last weekend and are in position to do the same at Wisconsin.
The good news for the Wildcats is that they are mostly healthy and have the players to score on anyone, anywhere. The dual QB threat of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter threw for 343 yards against the Buckeyes. RB Venric Mark returned from injury in that game and put in 103 total yards. The Wildcats couldn't really get much going in the ground game, which is the main reason they couldn't hold a 10-point third quarter lead. If they can find room to run against the Badgers, we could be in for another last-minute drive that decides the game.
The Wildcats are 14-4 ATS in their last 18 games overall, 6-1 ATS in their last seven conference games and have covered in four straight road games. The Badgers don't have as many positive trends, but are 4-0-1 in their last five games overall and 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 home games. Wisconsin has covered in four straight home games, with the last loss at home being to Ohio State last year. Northwestern is 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings in Wisconsin.
Bettors still like Northwestern, likely because they played Ohio State close last week. The sportsbook.com betting trends show us that 64% of the action as of midweek as come in on the Wildcats.
We have conflicting numbers on this game. Our model likes Wisconsin and predicts a comfortable 39-20 win. However, other numbers we like to look at, our power ratings and yards per point for example, suggest Northwestern can keep it close. After hanging with Ohio State, we'd tend to agree with our power ratings and the ypp numbers and would be tempted to grab the points. But we also have a lot of respect for our model, which is what ultimately keeps us off this game.
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