There are only five weeks left to go in the regular season, yet there are still Four teams that have a legit chance to win the Big Ten West and two of those play in this Game. All Four teams have one Conference loss, but that will change after this matchup. The Badgers were -7 point road favorites with an over/under of 51 as of Tuesday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This spread is surprising only because you rarely want to bet on Alex Hornibrook by more than a touchdown on the road. Then again, Northwestern almost lost to Rutgers last week and barely got past Nebraska before that. The Wildcats have played some good Games, namely against Michigan State, but this is still a team that lost to Duke and Akron earlier in the season and didn’t play much better against the SCarlet Knights. As for the Badgers, they still have road Games at Penn State and Purdue following this one so losing to NW is out of the question.
In last year’s meeting, nothing really stood out as neither team could get anything going even in a 33-24 win for Wisconsin. Both quarterbacks threw two picks, while the Badgers won because they averaged 2.9 yards per carry and NW was only at 0.7. That could again be what separates these teams even though Wisconsin’s run defense hasn’t been good, allowing 168 rushing yards per contest.
That may not matter unless freshman Isaiah Bowser is the answer at running back for the Wildcats. He ran for 108 yards against Rutgers, the first time Northwestern got anything on the ground since Jeremy LArkin left the team. If Bowser can move the chains, that would be a big help, while quarterback Clayton Thorson has often done enough to keep his team competitive. The problem is that Thorson’s numbers still aren’t improved as a senior, completing 61% of his passes on 6.62 yards per attempt. Top wide receiver Flynn Nagel has nice numbers, but he’s not a guy that’s going to break open a Game. Their goal will be to keep the clock moving and keep it as low scoring as possible.
Another thing going in Northwestern’s favor is that it’s home against Hornibrook, who has thrown two interceptions in the last two Games and similar to Thorson, has worse numbers than a season ago. His lone positive is that he still throws it down the field off play action to guys like A.J. Taylor, who is averaging 18.8 yards per catch. But per usual, the Badgers will ride Jonathan Taylor and the run Game the entire way. Taylor has at least 100 rushing yards in every Game and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Northwestern has been solid defensively against teams like Michigan and if they put forth that same effort in this one, it could be another three-point contest, but you never know what to get out of this team.
The Badgers are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 road Games, but haven’t covered in their last five following a straight-up win. The Wildcats are 21-6-1 ATS in their last 28 Conference Games, but just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five at home. The under is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these schools and Northwestern is 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings played in Evanston.
Our Pick – Northwestern +4