Wisconsin has done what was expected in the first three Games, easily disposing of each opponent. The Badgers remain large favorites to win the Big Ten West and that’s not going to change for a while with a favorable Schedule until November rolls around. They come into their Conference opener as -14.5 point home favorites against Northwestern as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Similar to last year, Northwestern has been a team of mystery. Many people expected the Wildcats to challenge Wisconsin this season due to the talent returning, but they’ve been unpredictable once again early on. The 41-17 loss at Duke stands out and a reason they are such big underdogs here as beating Nevada and Bowling Green doesn’t say much about them.
In last season’s meeting, the Wisconsin defense dominated per usual, holding Northwestern to seven points. Because the ground Game was limited to 2.1 yards per carry, Clayton Thorson was forced to throw the ball 52 times, which isn’t what this offense wants to do. Running back Justin Jackson couldn’t get anything going against Duke (18 yards) and anytime that happens, this offense tends to struggle. Unfortunately for Northwestern, Wisconsin again has one of the better defenses in the country and won’t be giving up many rushing yards to Jackson. Thorson threw for 722 yards in the two wins, but was just 11-of-29 for 120 yards and two picks in the Duke loss. If this offense can’t move the chains against Duke, it’d be wise not to back them against Wisconsin.
The other side of the ball is where Northwestern could steal a cover, but like last year’s Game, sooner or later the Badgers will find the end zone. While the Badgers got little from Alex Hornibrook in that Game, he didn’t need to do much with the rushing attack doing enough en route to 190 yards and two touchdowns. After Northwestern gave up 41 points to a mediocre Blue Devils offense, Wisconsin should be able to move the ball just fine, at least on the ground.
Hornibrook has been great in the first three Games with eight TDs and only one pick and while the Schedule helps with that, he only had nine touchdowns last season. It’s clear Hornibrook is at least slightly better than he was a year ago and we’ll learn just how good he is as Big Ten play gets going. That said, the Badgers will continue to lean on their ground Game with Jonathan Taylor the running back to break through in the early Games already with 438 yards and five touchdowns on 8.3 yards per carry.
Our Pick – Northwestern +16