Wisconsin vs. Northwestern Odds & Picks
(12) Wisconsin Badgers (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) v. (20) Northwestern Wildcats (4-0 SU, 3-0-1 ATS)
NCAA Football Week 12
When: Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 3:30 pm ET
Where: Ryan Field - Evanston, IL
Point Spread: WISC -7.5/NW +7.5 (MyBookie - Deposit $200 and get $200 FREE! Must use bonus code: PREDICT100)
Over/Under Total: 44
It is a big week in the Big Ten, and one of the best matchups on the slate has the Wisconsin Badgers heading to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. The Badgers have been impressive in two blowout victories while the Wildcats have been masters of the close game, winning their last three by a total of sixteen points. With both teams entering undefeated, this is an early table-setter for what we will see down the stretch in the Big Ten West, and that is good news for Wildcat fans as Northwestern has won five of the last six against Wisconsin at Ryan Field. Wisconsin didn’t show any rust after a two-week CoVid layoff, but they are essentially in a situation where they have to win out considering they are now scheduled to play just the minimum six games required for postseason eligibility.
Outside of Ohio State, Northwestern has been the toughest conference foe for Wisconsin in recent seasons, with the Badgers owning a modest 3-2 series edge in the Paul Chryst era. Northwestern has won four of those games against the spread and five of the last six in this series. The Wildcats will be looking to reverse a trend that has seen them win just two of the previous eleven against the spread at home. Wisconsin has four straight ATS wins over Big Ten opponents and is 17-7 ATS in their last 24 road games. The Under is one of the more popular bets, with 58% of action coming in on the Under in the early week betting period. There is plenty of evidence to support that being a good play with the Under hitting in six of the last seven in this series and each of the previous four Northwestern games overall. If you blindly bet the Under in every Northwestern home game from 2010 until now, you would be up 30 units. There is undoubtedly something about Ryan Field that is unfriendly to the visitors and high scores in general. At the current spread of UW -7.5, about 61% of public bets have come in on Wisconsin to cover.
Stick With What You Know
There were plenty of questions ahead of the Michigan game last week, but it took less than a half to reveal that this Wisconsin team can still run the ball regardless of who is or isn’t in the lineup. Without senior RB Garrett Groshek, the Badgers still rang up 340 rushing yards against the Wolverines, with four different ballplayers recording at least six carries. Each of those players crossed the 65-yard mark for the game, and Wisconsin put up five rushing scores, controlling the ball for over forty minutes en route to a 49-11 win. Badger wide receivers now have over 100 rushing yards on the season, so while the next bellcow back has yet to be named, Wisconsin is still the best rush offense in the conference. Two games is a small sample size, but Bucky is the Big Ten’s best overall offense and averages 47 points per game. Graham Mertz has hit on 75% of his passes in those two games and has seven touchdown passes without an interception as Wisconsin has committed just one turnover so far. TE Jake Ferguson has emerged as the leading pass catcher, and he leads the team with 123 receiving yards and four scores. The Wisconsin defense is perhaps even better than in years past, with just 18 total first downs allowed through two games, holding Illinois and Michigan to a combined 440 yards and 18 points.
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It Doesn’t have to be Pretty
Northwestern hasn’t logged many style points in 2020, but the result is still 4-0, and they will be in a fantastic position to win the West if they can drop Wisconsin. The Wildcats have done just enough against Iowa, Nebraska, and Purdue in recent weeks, often getting one or two key plays each week that ultimately sealed a close win. Northwestern is 19th in the NCAA in takeaways with seven team interceptions alongside seven sacks for. They are the second-best run defense in the conference and have allowed just fourteen points per game. Linebackers Chris Bergen and Paddy Fisher pace this defense, and each have hit the twenty tackle mark while combining for five pass defenses. The offense is just inside the top-100 in the country in yards gained, but Peyton Ramsey has been a steady leader, hitting on 66% of his passes while adding 122 rushing yards and accounting for eight total touchdowns. Drake Anderson and Isaiah Bowser aren’t electric runners, but each is north of 180 rushing yards, and the season and Northwestern has stuck with the run enough to be the 52nd best ground game in the land. That isn’t elite, but it has kept the ball away from the opponent and the Wildcat defense fresh. Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman (19-198-3) leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns and shouldn’t have to work against the Badgers #1 corner as Rachad Wildgoose remains on the inactive list due to the virus.
Take Wisconsin in a Close Contest
There has been no shortage of pain for Wisconsin in Evanston over the years, but I think this season will be different given that Mertz is potentially a generational talent at QB. Perhaps Michigan is actually a rather poor team this season, but Wisconsin dominated the game in Ann Arbor last week with at least five true freshmen suiting up for the Badgers, including RB Jalen Berger, who led the team with 87 rushing yards. Wisconsin will also benefit from a normal week of preparation as pandemic protocols have limited them over the previous two weeks. Northwestern is the team that no one really wants to play given their all-out attitude and effort, but Wisconsin has the playmaking advantage on offense while also possessing an equal if not better defense. This game is reminiscent of NCAA contests out of the 1970s with plenty of fullbacks and tight ends on the field for both teams, but it appears that Wisconsin is rightfully among the best teams in the land at the moment and the class of the Big Ten West. I think this one remains close throughout the contest, but the depth and versatility of the Badger offense eventually creases the Wildcat defense as the game wears on. I was prepared to go Northwestern’s way with an expected nine or ten-point spread, but the 7.5 appears manageable for Wiscy, and they escape with a 28-18 win.
Ted Walker’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Wisconsin. You could also tease the NW Wildcats to +27.5 by inserting them into a 20 point college football teaser at BetAnySports.
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