No. 22 Northwestern Wildcats (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. California Bears (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date and Time: Saturday, August 31, 2014, 10:30 pm EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NW -6/Cal. +6
Over/Under Total: 58.5
The 2013 season for the 22nd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats
has to be the most anticipated one since the 1996 Rose Bowl team, and hype
or no-hype it will all kickoff Saturday night on the West Coast when the
Wildcats travel to Memorial Stadium to play the Cal Bears
in a late-night ESPN2 broadcast.
With 17 starters returning from last years Wildcat team that won 10 games, including a Gator Bowl win over a mighty-SEC team (Miss St.), there is plenty for Northwestern to be happy about this year. This is easily the best team head coach Pat Fitzgerald has put together in his seven-year tenure at the school (50-39 at NW), and with expectations so high it will be interesting to watch how the Wildcats react in the unfamiliar role of being heavily favored instead of the underdog.
California is starting life under new coach Sonny Dykes, who cashed in his great year at Louisiana Tech in 2012 to get into the PAC-12 and the Bears top gig. With no proven quarterback, a new coaching staff and new scheme, and a tough schedule that also includes fellow Big Ten favorite Ohio State, Dykes will be lucky if the Bears are playing for their bowl-bid lives in November.
Northwestern is getting a lot of love from the oddsmakers too, opening on the board as 6-point favorites on the road in Berkeley. The number has been solid too, whether thats from lack of action or a good number by Vegas is anybodys guess, because lets face it, Northwestern isnt a team most handicappers will target for action.
Offensively the Wildcats scored 31.7 points per game last year (3rd in Big Ten), including 34 on Mississippi State in the bowl game, and with game-breakers back at QB (Kain Colter) and running back (Venric Mark) the Cats are looking at another big season. Cal is switching schemes to a 4-3, so two of the Bears best players (LBs Brennan Scarlett and Chris McCain) to switch positions.
Cal has also held an open competition for the role of quarterback this year, and no one has really stepped to the front, so Dykes fast-paced, no-huddle attack might need a little while to get off the ground. Northwestern also returns seven on defense, including three in the secondary led by safety Ibraheim Campbell, so the Wildcats defense might be good enough to support the offense all season long including tough openers on the road.
Northwestern finished 2012 on a roll at the betting window, going 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games and 7-0 to close out the year, for those of you that like trends. Cal went 0-5 ATS to close 2012, and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games at home in Memorial Stadium.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im drinking the Northwestern Kool-aid this season, so Im on the Wildcats in this spot in a game I expect them to win by double digits. Dykes and his offense will make Cal a dangerous team to play against, just not till midseason in my estimation. Im taking Northwestern minus 6-points.
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