Michigan vs. Northwestern College Football Odds, Picks: The Bet to Make for Saturday’s Big Ten Battle

Michigan vs. Northwestern College Football Odds, Picks: The Bet to Make for Saturday’s Big Ten Battle article feature image
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Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Pat Fitzgerald.

  • Michigan and Northwestern go to battle on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Wolverines hope to keep their undefeated season going against a weaker Wildcats squad.
  • Anthony Dabbundo breaks it down below and shares a betting pick.

Michigan vs. Northwestern College Football Odds

Saturday, Oct. 23
12 p.m. ET
FOX
Michigan Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-23.5
-115
51
-115o / -105u
+2000
Northwestern Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+23.5
-105
51
-115o / -105u
+1000
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

No college football team is immune from the lookahead spot and one of the worst on the board on Saturday’s college football slate is for Michigan.

This weekend, the Wolverines host Northwestern ahead of a matchup with fellow undefeated and in-state rival Michigan State next week.

It helps that the Wolverines are coming off a bye week for this one, for sure. You have to wonder, though, if head coach Jim Harbaugh has one eye on next Saturday as he’s coaching the second half of this game.

Will his players be caught overlooking a bad Northwestern team that enters this game as a 23.5-point underdog?

Last season, this would have been lined up much closer, but Northwestern lost a ton of talent, especially on defense, and has really struggled in 2021.

The Wolverines have statistical advantages across the board but are also due for some negative regression. They aren’t quite as good as their undefeated record indicates.


Michigan Wolverines

With a team that runs the ball as much as Michigan does — the seventh-highest run rate in the country — the immediate look is at the opponent’s run defense.

Northwestern ranks 93rd in Rushing Success Rate allowed and 96th in Defensive Line Yards, which suggests it will be difficult for the Wildcats to stop the Wolverines’ ground game.

Michigan’s top issue on offense has been lacking explosiveness. The Wolverines have had to grind out a lot of drives this season because of an inability to hit a big play.

That’s a dangerous game to play for a favorite of more than three touchdowns against a well-coached team like Northwestern.

The Wildcats have solid defensive tackling and coverage numbers and are top-15 in preventing big plays, all of which suggest Michigan will need to grind out drives and prevent mistakes to try to get margin and scores.

Michigan’s offensive pace ranks outside the top 100, as well, which sets up for a very quick second half if it has the ball.

Even though Michigan has the offensive statistical advantages nearly across the board, the lack of explosiveness and slow pace leads to a slow second half.

Throw in the lookahead to next week, and Michigan may have the Michigan State game to think about in regards to any banged-up or injured players.

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Northwestern Wildcats

There’s not much to like about this Northwestern offense on the road in the Big House against a very solid Wolverines defense.

The Wildcats will rely more on the run than the pass and while they may be able to run it a little bit on this Michigan defense, they too lack explosiveness to be able to hit the big play.

The Wildcats have played four games against Power 5 opponents and scored 23, 21, seven and 21 points.

Michigan is probably the best defense Northwestern has faced all year. While quarterback Ryan Hillinski is coming off his best game of the season in a 21-7 win over Rutgers, the Wildcats’ passing attack ranks just 92nd in Passing Success Rate and 88th in pass blocking.

Keeping Hillinski upright against an elite Michigan pass rush is the No. 1 priority for the Wildcats.

Michigan’s defense is also top-30 in both tackling and coverage grades. Scoring points and trying to keep up with the Wolverines is not how Northwestern is going to cover this huge spread.


Northwestern vs. Michigan Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Northwestern and Michigan match up statistically:

Northwestern Offense vs. Michigan Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 53 29
Line Yards 67 34
Pass Success 92 37
Pass Blocking** 88 8
Big Play 97 28
Havoc 94 44
Finishing Drives 107 11
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Michigan Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 21 93
Line Yards 77 96
Pass Success 61 87
Pass Blocking** 48 80
Big Play 97 15
Havoc 1 88
Finishing Drives 51 109
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 65 3
Coverage 42 26
Middle 8 43 33
SP+ Special Teams 118 2
Plays per Minute 41 101
Rush Rate 55.8% (58) 66.9% (7)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.


Northwestern vs. Michigan Betting Pick

The matchup handicap in this game suggests that the Michigan defense should be able to smother the Northwestern offense and make the Wildcats reliant on long third-down passing conversions to sustain drives in this game.

The Wolverines are still a tad overvalued, though, when you factor in a few fortunate wins against Rutgers and Nebraska. Michigan easily could have lost either game and wouldn’t be nearly as big of a favorite if it lost either.

Regression is coming for Michigan and in this spot, it’s underdog or nothing because the Wolverines have a big rivalry game up next.

I wouldn’t bet this unless you can find a 24 or better, either pregame or live — if Michigan goes ahead early. This is a spot where Northwestern can stay inside the number with its defense and hope Michigan doesn’t use its special teams edge or pass rush to create free points and steal a cover on a big spread.

Pick: Wait for Northwestern +24 or better (Pre-game or live)

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