College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Northwestern vs. Nebraska: How to Bet This Big Ten Contest (Oct. 2)
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- The Northwestern Wildcats and Nebraska Cornhuskers meet in a battle between two struggling Big Ten West teams on Saturday.
- Nebraska is coming off a tough overtime loss to Michigan State last week, but Mike Ianniello still sees betting value on the Cornhuskers.
- Check out Ianniello's full betting breakdown complete with odds, picks, and predictions below.
Northwestern vs. Nebraska Odds
|Moneyline||+330 / -435|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
Iowa looks like the clear best team in the Big Ten West, but after that? Who the heck knows?
Wisconsin has struggled early, Minnesota just lost at home to one of the worst teams in the country, Purdue is still hard to trust and Illinois already has four losses this year.
Nebraska and Northwestern are both very interesting teams that came into the year with different outlooks and could both realistically finish anywhere from second to last in the division.
After reaching the Big Ten Championship last year, Northwestern was expected to take a big step back, returning the lowest TARP in the country. They’re off to a 2-2 start with wins against Indiana State and Ohio and losses to Michigan State and Ohio.
Nebraska also lost to Michigan State in a game it probably should’ve won last week. The loss moved the Cornhuskers to 2-3 on the season and 0-2 in conference play.
Scott Frost seemed like can’t-miss hire in 2018, returning to Nebraska after a National Championship season (kinda) at UCF in 2017.
Now, just 14-23 in his fourth season with the Cornhuskers, his seat might be starting to get hotter if he doesn’t turn things around soon.
Northwestern vs. Nebraska Betting Preview
Last year’s starter Peyton Ramsey departed, so former Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson was given another shot after struggling in 2019. Johnson continued to be ineffective and was pulled in Week 3.
Former South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski was named the starter last week against Ohio and will get the nod again vs. Nebraska.
As the starter for South Carolina as a freshman in 2019, Hilinski threw for 2,357 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions. Last week against Ohio, he went 12-of-20 for just 88 yards and no scores.
Not a single player with more than 10 catches last season returned for the Wildcats, as they lost their top four receivers and really lack weapons on the outside. They rank 109th in the country in Passing Success Rate this season.
The saving grace for the Wildcats has been their rushing attack. Northwestern lost its top three backs from last season after rushing leader Cam Porter suffered a season-ending injury during camp, Drake Anderson transferred to Arizona and Isaiah Bowser left for UCF.
After just 25 carries last year, Evan Hull has taken over the main role and has led the way with 119.5 rushing yards per game and four touchdowns. He’s averaging 7.6 yards per carry and burned Ohio for 216 yards last week.
Pat Fitzgerald teams have been known for being stout defensively after finishing 20th in the country in Success Rate on defense and first in the nation against the pass last season.
After returning just 50% of TARP, the Northwestern defense has really fallen off this year. They come into Week 5 ranking just 88th in Pass Success Rate on defense.
The Wildcats’ defense has allowed over 500 total yards in two of their four games and is allowing 5.7 yards per play, the second-worst mark in the Big Ten.
It hasn’t just been the passing defense that has taken a big step back either. Northwestern has allowed 186.8 rushing yards per game this year, which ranks 105th in the country and is the worst in the conference.
The one thing that’s been very clear about Nebraska’s rough start this season: it’s certainly not Adrian Martinez’s fault.
The fourth-year starter is often criticized, but has carried this Nebraska offense so far this season. He’s averaging 156 yards passing with five touchdowns through the air and is the team’s leading rusher with 72.4 yards per game and six scores on the ground.
Martinez leads the Big Ten in QBR this year and is second in the conference in total offensive yards per game with 9.5 yards per pass attempt.
Despite losing his best weapon in Wan’Dale Robinson, his 10.5 average depth of target is the most of his career by more than two yards.
Adrian Martinez is SHMONEY 💰
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 18, 2021
Redshirt freshman Samori Toure has stepped up as the top pass catcher so far with 375 yards and two touchdowns. Zavier Betts has also come on strong lately. He’s been the Huskers’ leading receiver in each of the last two games.
The backfield has struggled early outside of Martinez, but they’re still super young. Rahmir Johnson is a freshman and Markese Stepp is only a sophomore. They’ve been the main running back rotation, along with promising freshman Gabe Ervin Jr, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Oklahoma.
The Cornhuskers’ defense can best be described as bend-don’t-break. They rank 86th in Passing Success Rate and 93rd in Rushing Success Rate on defense. So, teams have been able to move the ball on them.
However, they’ve kept things in front of them, ranking 37th at defending big plays. They also have done a good job limiting damage, sitting 36th at finishing drives on defense.
The Blackshirts were especially impressive last week against Michigan State. They held the Spartans to just 254 total yards of offense and the nation’s leading rusher Kenneth Walker III to just 61 yards. Michigan State managed just 2.4 yards per carry.
Michigan State didn’t have a single first down in the entire second half last week and managed just 14 total yards of offense as the Huskers completely shut them down.
Linebacker Luke Reimer has been a beast this year and is the team’s leading tackler, but Nebraska fans will tell you that outside backer JoJo Domann is the heart-and-soul of this defense.
Domann ranks fifth among all active FBS players with seven-career forced fumbles.
Domann and Reimer are both excellent in pass coverage from their linebacker position and them, along with cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt and safety Deontai Williams, have helped the Huskers to a 28th-ranked coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
Northwestern vs. Nebraska Matchup Analysis
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Northwestern Offense vs. Nebraska Defense
Nebraska Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Northwestern vs. Nebraska Betting Pick
Despite the loss to Michigan State, Nebraska outgained them 440-254 and had a post-game win expectancy of 83%. It also had a 59% win expectancy against Illinois and pushed Oklahoma to the brink.
The Cornhuskers’ special teams have been atrocious and that’s a huge area of concern. However, this team has been playing much better than their record indicates.
Nebraska ranks 37th in the country in Passing Success and despite struggling to run the ball consistently throughout the game, Martinez has been able to use his legs to pick up first downs on the ground all season. He’s carried this team all year and it’s time he finally gets rewarded for his performances.
If the Nebraska defense can play half as good as they did in the second half against Michigan State last week, Northwestern is going to really struggle to move the ball. They’re averaging just 5.4 yards per play and they lack the strength in the trenches we’re used to seeing from the Purple Cats.
Northwestern ranks just 98th in Finishing Drives on offense, and the Huskers are 36th in that category on defense. This is where I see the biggest edge for Nebraska.
This is going to be a long season for Northwestern, as it was clearly going to take a step back and need to rebuild. Nebraska on the other hand, is desperate to improve quickly, so it’s about time it finally gets the results to match its much better play.
I will lay the points with Nebraska to make a statement at home and would play them up to -13.