Kentucky Wildcats (7-5 SU, 3-9 ATS) vs. No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats (9-3 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Friday December 22nd, 2017. 4:30PM (EST)
Where: Nissan Stadium Nashville, T.N.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UK +7.5/NW -7.5
Over/Under Total: 51
The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl will take place on Friday December, 22nd when the Kentucky Wildcats meet the no. 21 Northwestern Wildcats at Nissan Stadium. This tale of Wildcats features two teams that exceeded expectations this year. Kentucky made some noise in the SEC during the 1st half of the season with wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. While they did slide during the 2nd half of the year, Kentucky proved they were no pushover for any member of the SEC and as a result have earned their 2nd straight postseason bowl berth.
For Northwestern, they also exceeded expectations with a 9-3 mark SU and ATS. Pat Fitzgerald’s team put together 7 straight victories to close out the season and finished 2nd in the Big Ten West Division. The streaking Wildcats captured victories over Maryland, no. 16 Michigan State, and Iowa in the closing weeks of the season to climb into the top 25 rankings. Now Northwestern will have the opportunity to reach the 10 win mark which would tie a school record for the 3rd time under Pat Fitzgerald who has reached 10 wins twice in the last 5 years.
For Northwestern to reach that 10 win mark for the 3rd time under Fitzgerald, they will have to eradicate a long history of letdown bowl performances where they are just 3-10 SU all-time. The good news for Northwestern is that they will be 7.5 point favorites and appear to be on the plus side of most matchups. Both of these Wildcats’ teams share some similarities in their style of play and tendencies. Both offenses are physical relying on their running attack at the core of their focus. Meanwhile both defenses are rather gritty in their relentless approaches as well.
From a comparison standpoint, I give Northwestern the bigger advantage on defense. The Big Ten Wildcats held opponents to just 358 yards (38th in FBS) per game. The Northwestern defense was a big reason the Wildcats closed the year on a strong note as they held their final 4 opponents to just 11 points per game and forced 12 turnovers during that same stretch. Kentucky on the other hand did not have favorable results. The SEC Wildcats ranked 89th overall allowing 425 yards per game and additionally allowed nearly 30 points per game. During their last 4 games of the year, Kentucky gave up 36 points per game resulting in losses in 3 of their final 4 games.
Therefore, it definitely appeared that both teams were trending in opposite directions at the end of the year. Luckily the weeks leading up to the Wildcats meeting between each other in the Music City allows time for preparation to change some of those trends. From an offensive standpoint, neither unit is known for quick striking or big playmaking potential. Both offenses lean heavily on their running backs. Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr has racked up 1,318 yards with 18 touchdowns while Northwestern’s Justin Jackson has racked up more than 1,100 yards with 9 touchdowns. Both offenses rely heavily on the running back position in a grinding approach to try to open up opportunities in the passing game.
In the passing game, Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson is the better quarterback. I have watched Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson on several occasions this year and have not been impressed at all. I also believe Thorson has the better quality in the receiving corps to compliment their passing attack as well. However before we hand over the expectations to Northwestern, let me warn everyone to be cautious. Thorson has thrown 12 interceptions on the year and Northwestern has coughed up turnovers on nearly 20 separate instances. If that happens again, Kentucky can compete in this game with their rugged and physical style of play. Therefore, I believe turnovers could have a major impact on the way this game unfolds.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think Northwestern is the better team but I think the under 51 is a very strong play. I do not expect the game flow to favor scoring as both teams attempt to establish the run. Therefore, I see a lot of value in the under 51! – Bet your pick for this game using your credit card at an online bookie where it WILL work for deposits and where you’ll receive a generous 50% signup bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $250! (Example: Deposit $250 and they’ll give you an extra $250 FREE!) Find this great offer at Bovada Sportsbook.