Pick – Analysis
There’s no doubt the Big Ten has improved this year and Iowa and Northwestern are among the teams leading the charge. Both are ranked in the Top 20 and this Game could easily decide the winner of the West division. The undefeated Hawkeyes are road favorites of -2.5 as of Wednesday at mybookie.ag.
These teams met last year and it wasn’t really close. It was one of the Games Northwestern didn’t show up to as Iowa dominated 48-7 with a clamp down defense and offense that moved the ball at ease.
The Wildcats had a similar showing last week as they just didn’t look right, losing 38-0 at Michigan, a week after taking down Minnesota 27-0. Northwestern is a tough team to beat at home, as seen in its opening 16-6 win over Stanford, which makes this spread a bit interesting.
The Hawkeyes have a great 10-6 road win over Wisconsin on their resume, but that’s really about it from them. Their other somewhat respectable wins are against Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Illinois. Do they really deserve to be favorites on the road?
Iowa has won Games with a run defense that is giving up almost nothing. Through six Games, they have allowed 2.5 yards per attempt and only 78 yards per Game, one of the best rates in the nation. Northwestern will have to overcome that, something they didn’t do last week against an equally good run defense. The Wildcats ran for just 38 yards against the Wolverines and Clayton Thorson isn’t a quarterback that can move the ball solely with his arm so that Game ended up being a blowout.
If Thorson doesn’t improve or the running Game doesn’t step up, this could be a similar performance. Despite last year’s loss, NW did have some success on the ground and that’s what they’ll have to hope for here. Justin Jackson is having a solid season with 661 yards on the ground, but this offense has still only scored 11 touchdowns on the year.
Northwestern’s defense was playing well until matching up against Michigan. Not a whole lot worked, yet they are still allowing just 12.2 points per Game on the year. This Game figures to be a bit different though, especially at home.
Iowa takes a similar approach to its offense like most Big Ten teams, with a power-run Game and mediocre quarterback play. Running back Jordan Canzeri went off last week for 256 yards, yet they still only beat Illinois 29-20 at home. On the year, Canzeri has 697 yards and nine touchdowns. Quarterback C.J. Beathard hasn’t been as bad as some QBs with nine TDs and two INTs on the year, but before betting this Game, it’d be wise to confirm his status. Beathard is dealing with a hip injury and wasn’t a full participant in early-week practices.
If Northwestern can contain Canzeri just a bit, expect this result to look very similar to Iowa’s previous road Game at Wisconsin, a 10-6 win.
The under has hit in the last Four meetings between these teams at Northwestern. The favorite has covered in Four straight and the home team has covered in five straight. Which trend will budge here?
Our Pick – Every year there’s a team or two the flies under the radar. A team we’re not used to seeing win and when all is said and done, they’re playing on New Years Day in a major Bowl Game. We thought Northwestern might be one of those teams this year.
But Northwestern let us down last week. We were 4-1 on Our Key Releases and guess who Our only loss was? Yep. Northwestern. We obviously didn’t see that coming.
So we jump ship, right?
Nah. We’re going to come right back and use them again this week. A defense that can hold Stanford to 6 points isn’t a fluke. More likely, the fluke is giving up 38 to Michigan. Northwestern +2.5