Over/Under 6 Wins () vs Northwestern Wildcats ()Date : 08/30/2018
Time : First Game: Northwestern Wildcats @ Purdue Boilermakers 8:00 PM
Location : Ryan Field
Pick, Prediction, & Preview:
Over/Under 6 Wins vs Northwestern Wildcats
The Northwestern Wildcats don’t strike the typical college football fan as a dangerous team in the Big Ten West but over the course of the last 3 seasons, Northwestern has been as good as any team in the Big Ten West as they have gone 27-12 with 3 bowl appearances. Given the success that Northwestern has had Pat Fitzgerald has not only been able to build a winning culture but also build one of the best indoor facilities in college football which should lure in some bigger recruits. Although Northwestern was able to win the Music City Bowl last year it essentially felt like a loss as the Wildcats lost their all-time rushing leader as well as their starting QB to a torn ACL. Fitzgerald does return most of his talent outside of those 2-star players and on top of that, both positions had serviceable backups last year. Defense is where the Wildcats should thrive against some of the best teams as they return a couple of possible All-Big Ten selections at every level of the scheme. Northwestern is a hard place to recruit for especially when talking about the big name recruits as it is a deep academic school as well as lacks a program history like so many of the Big Ten teams have. Fitzgerald has been able to find some diamonds in the rough in his past few recruiting classes and Wildcat fans are hoping that happens again with his 2018 class. Northwestern had the worst ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten as they ranked 14th with no 4-star recruits committing.
Over/Under 6 Wins's Latest Performance :
Northwestern is coming off arguably the best season in the 124 years of this Wildcat football program as they went 10-3 with a bowl victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. Northwestern is returning a ton of key pieces this season with veteran leadership at the quarterback position but oddsmakers have taken the loss of the all-time leading rusher into account which is why the over/under is set at 6 wins.
The Northwestern Wildcats luckily reside on the easier side of the Big Ten in the West division but they will have to see the tougher East teams in their cross-over matchups. Northwestern will split their matchups with Michigan and Michigan State as they will see the Spartans on the road but unfortunately for them, they will have to play them in back-to-back weeks. Northwestern will have an unusual opening game as they will have to go against Purdue on the road in a Big Ten matchup. The non-conference schedule for Northwestern could potentially cause problems for the Wildcats as they will host three bowl teams with Duke, Akron, and Norte Dame all coming into town. Northwestern will have a tough road to making their 4th consecutive bowl game but they will be battle-tested if they can break through.
Northwestern Wildcats's Latest Performance :
Northwestern has the advantage that so many college football teams lack and that is veteran leadership at the QB position with Clayton Thorson coming back for another season. Thorson was a guy that was slated to leave early for the NFL draft but after the senior tore his ACL in the final game of 2017 the QB made the decision to rehab and improve on his play in 2018. Thorson didn’t light up the stat sheet through the air as he threw 15 TDs compared to 12 interceptions but he showed dual-threat capabilities as he rushed for 8 TDs, something that will be needed again in the departure of Justin Jackson at the running back position. Jackson has been the heart and soul of this Northwestern program as he broke the all-time rushing record last season with a 1300 yard season but he leaves a whole to fill at RB as he ran out of eligibility. Jeremy Larkin was a capable backup in his freshmen season last year as the explosive back averaged 6 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns, so he should fill into the starting role nicely. Fitzgerald may take more of a passing offense up this season considering he returns a veteran QB and his top 2 pass catchers from 2017. Ben Skowronek was the top receiver last year for Thorson as he led the team with 644 yards and 5 TDs and he should shoulder most of the load once again in his junior season. Defensively the Wildcats are better off than most teams in college football as they return star power at every level of the defense. Paddy Fisher showed knowledge of the defense last year as a freshman as the linebacker was one of the best in the Big Ten with 111 tackles, 9 TFL, and 4 forced fumbles. Fisher will be joined by another good linebacker with Nate Hall (17 TFL & 5 sacks) returning for his senior season which makes up one of the best linebacker duos in college football. The pass rush in 2017 was led by Joe Gaziano as he compiled a team-high 9 sacks and contributed another 5 pass deflections, expect Gaziano to have a big junior season. The secondary will be led by cornerback Montre Hartage (2 INTs) and although they lost two-star safeties from last season they will return 3 guys off the injury list who should fill the void.
Player To Watch
Solomon Vault, WR, Sr.
Northwestern isn’t much of a flashy program as they don’t have the 4-star recruits that their yearly opponents have but that isn’t needed when you have great coaches and one of those guys who benefited from that is Solomon Vault. Vault may have been an overlooked prospect out of high school as a 5’10 running back doesn’t strike excellence to many teams but Fitzgerald took advantage of the opportunity and moved Vault to the wide receiver position. Vault may have never cracked the 200-yard mark in his first 3 seasons but he is one of the best returners in all of football. Vault has returned 4 kickoffs to the house in his career and given his success in the return game, he should give the Wildcats some explosive plays this season.
How Over/Under 6 Wins & Northwestern Wildcats Matchup.
Vegas Odds, Offshore Odds, & Odds ATS:
Over 6 Wins -120
Under 6 Wins – Even
In-Depth Analysis of each team:
8/30- @ Purdue- L
9/8- Duke- W
9/15- Akron- W
9/29- Michigan- L
10/6- @ Michigan State- L
10/13- Nebraska- W
10/20- @ Rutgers- W
10/27- Wisconsin- L
11/3- Norte Dame- L
11/10- @ Iowa- L
11/17- @ Minnesota- W
11/24- Illinois- W
Overall Record- 6-6
Against The Spread Selection: Push, Lean over 6 Wins -120
My reason for the pick :
Northwestern was given no favors this season with their schedule as they will have a tough stretch of games to open the season, but all things considered, they should reach their 4th consecutive bowl game. Northwestern is only hurting at the running back position and even at that, they have a really solid backup who is only a sophomore and should fill in nicely. The reason that I say to back the over if you have to bet on it is because Northwestern has Michigan, Norte Dame, and Wisconsin at home and with that being said there could be an upset in Chicago in at least 1 of those 3 matchups. Northwestern should handle the rest of their schedule with ease as there isn’t much of a threat from the rest of the Big Ten West and if they handle their business they will make a bowl game no doubt. Take Northwestern over the 6 win total if you have to bet on it.