Northwestern vs. Wisconsin College Football Odds & Picks: Big Ten Matchup Should Be Low-Scoring

Northwestern vs. Wisconsin College Football Odds & Picks: Big Ten Matchup Should Be Low-Scoring article feature image
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Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen.

  • Wisconsin (-24) is a huge favorite at home over Northwestern.
  • The Badgers offense has struggled all season, while the defense has thrived.
  • Alex Hinton breaks down the matchup and delivers his betting pick below.

Northwestern vs. Wisconsin Odds

Saturday, Nov. 13
12 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Northwestern Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+24
-105
41
-105o / -115u
+1200
Wisconsin Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-24
-115
41
-105o / -115u
-2500
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Wisconsin has been the preeminent program in the Big Ten West in recent years, winning the division in three of the last five seasons. Northwestern won the division the other two years., including last season. The Wildcats used a 17-7 win over the Badgers in Evanston, Ill., en route to the title a year ago.

Northwestern enters this year’s matchup in the cellar, sitting at 3-6 overall and 1-5 in Big Ten play. However, there’s no doubt Wisconsin will have revenge on its mind. The Badgers have gotten on a roll, having won five consecutive games after a 1-3 start to the year.

When Big Ten West foes get together, there usually aren’t a lot of points put on the scoreboard. I would expect that to be the case again in this contest.

Offense Struggling for Northwestern Wildcats

It has been a struggle for Northwestern this season, which continued last week with a 12-point outing against Iowa. Northwestern did put up 270 yards through the air, but that was accompanied by three interceptions. Iowa has turned over its opponents all season, however it will not get much easier for Northwestern facing Wisconsin’s defense this season.

This season, Northwestern has found a tad bit more success running the football. The Wildcats average 151.7 rushing yards per game, which is 78th in the country. They also rank 79th in rushing success rate. Running back Evan Hull leads the team with 791 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The Wildcats are 120th in passing success rate and 77th in passing play explosiveness.

Northwestern has been unable to stop the run and it continued last week against Iowa. A dormant Iowa rushing attack managed 185 rushing yards against Northwestern. The Wildcats rank 124th in rushing yards allowed, surrendering 226.2 yards per game. That does not bode well against Wisconsin.

The Wildcats are 105th in passing success allowed and don’t disrupt their opponents much. The Wildcats are 119th in havoc and 111th in finishing drives.

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Ground Attack Powering Wisconsin Badgers

It was against Northwestern last season where Wisconsin showed the first signs of its offensive woes. The program scored seven points against the Wildcats last season, the first of three consecutive games with single-digit point totals.

It carried over into this season and was largely responsible for the Badgers’ 1-3 start. They’re averaging 30.6 PPG during the five-game winning streak, including a 52-point outburst last week at Rutgers.

In typical Wisconsin fashion, the running game has led the way. The Badgers are 13th in the country and second in the Big Ten in rushing at 222.2 rushing yards per game. However, the Badgers might be short-handed in the backfield. Running back Chez Mellusi, who leads the team with 815 rushing yards, left last week’s game with a knee injury and will miss the remainder of the season.

True freshman running back Braelon Allen looks like the next great Wisconsin back, but even he has been battling an ankle injury. The Badgers will be inexperienced in the backfield if he has to miss time.

Units do not get much dominant than what Wisconsin’s defense has done. The Badgers are fourth in scoring defense, allowing 15.4 points per game. Since conceding 79 points in consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Michigan, the Badgers have allowed 37 points in the last five games. The Badgers are first in the country in rushing success rate, rushing yards allowed (54.7) and yards per carry allowed (1.9) overall.

The Badgers are also first in passing success rate and havoc, while ranking second in line yards. The Badgers will have an advantage over Northwestern in all areas.


Northwestern vs. Wisconsin Matchup Analysis

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

Northwestern Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 72 1
Line Yards 90 2
Pass Success 102 1
Pass Blocking** 71 21
Big Play 127 8
Havoc 96 1
Finishing Drives 111 12
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Wisconsin Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 45 103
Line Yards 48 116
Pass Success 119 105
Pass Blocking** 103 96
Big Play 92 17
Havoc 32 116
Finishing Drives 119 111
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 78 18
Coverage 42 41
Middle 8 47 38
SP+ Special Teams 128 21
Plays per Minute 23 121
Rush Rate 53.% (80) 67.7% (5)

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


Northwestern vs. Wisconsin Betting Pick

Northwestern is averaging 12.2 PPG in its last five games, while Wisconsin is allowed 7.4 PPG in its last five games. Given how Northwestern’s offense matches up against Wisconsin’s defense, the thing I’m most confident about is Northwestern will not put many points on the scoreboard.

Wisconsin scored 52 points last week, but one touchdown was on a pick six and another touchdown was set up by a short field off another interception. However, it still ranks 119th in finishing drives offensively. Northwestern’s offense is 111th in finishing drives and will be going against a Badgers defense that’s 12th in finishing drives.

Wisconsin can win this game with its defense alone. And if Allen is out or limited, the Badgers’ main priority will be getting out with a win. Wisconsin already runs the ball on more than two thirds of its offensive snaps and sits 121st in plays per minute. That sounds like the formula for an under to me. Plus, the under has hit in the last three meetings in this series.

Pick: Under 41

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