Duke vs. Northwestern Odds, Picks, Predictions: Why to Target Wildcats on Spread

Duke vs. Northwestern Odds, Picks, Predictions: Why to Target Wildcats on Spread article feature image

Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images. Pictured: Evan Hull (Northwestern)

Duke vs. Northwestern Odds

Saturday, Sept. 10
12 p.m. ET
Duke Odds
-114o / -106u
Northwestern Odds
-114o / -106u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Someone's O has got to go as the Duke Blue Devils head to Evanston, Illinois, to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. Each of these teams looked impressive in their respective season openers, but a matchup between the two will reveal more about them.

The Blue Devils come into this contest after pitching a shoutout against Temple. They thoroughly dominated the Owls on both sides of the ball, as they had 500 total yards on offense while holding their opposition to just 179 yards.

As for the Wildcats, they are coming off of an early bye after pulling off a sizable upset against Nebraska across the pond.

Northwestern showed plenty of good, but still proved susceptible on the defensive side of the ball. However, it comes into this matchup as two-score favorites.

Can the Wildcats cover this number? Let's take a closer look to find out.

Duke Blue Devils

Not much was expected of the Blue Devils entering this season, as our Action Network win total projections have them pegged for just over two wins.

Well, they are halfway there after Week 1, and they made a statement with their opening victory.

While their defense shined, it was against a Temple team that is expected to be worse than the Blue Devils. Now, after their big victory, the gap is undoubtedly larger.

However, there may be even more of a gap between the Blue Devils and the Wildcats. Although, before we get there, we have to cover the X-factor for this Duke team, quarterback Riley Leonard.

It was the Leonard show in Week 1, as the sophomore showed that he could get it done through the air and on the ground, as well. He threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns while completing 80% of his passes. He also led the team in rushing, as he had 11 rushing attempts for 64 yards.

Leonard looked very impressive in this performance, as he connected on multiple 30-plus-yard passes and showed that the Blue Devils could be explosive. While the Wildcats did give up a few passes, they did rank 24th in Offensive Explosiveness Allowed last season.

Northwestern's secondary will have far better coverage than Temple, but it will need to keep Leonard contained in the pocket if it wants to control this game.

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Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern is a team that exemplifies Big Ten football. The Wildcats slow the game down by running the ball and play solid defense, which was a strong game plan last season when they were abysmal on the offense side of the ball.

However, junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski was given the reigns to the offense and showed out in the opener.

Hilinski threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns while completing 71% of his passes.

This week, he may need to be relied on again, as the Blue Devils were vulnerable through the air last season. Duke ranked 121st in Pass Play Explosiveness Allowed, and it was 130th in Passing Down Success Rate Allowed.

While the Blue Devils' defensive effort in Week 1 was impressive, we must take it with a grain of salt, as the Wildcats are a massive step up in competition. We did not even talk about Northwestern's bread and butter, the running game.

Junior Evan Hull is coming off of a sophomore season where he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored seven times. He got off to a tremendous start against Nebraska, as he rushed for 119 yards and added in five receptions for 55 yards, as well.

Duke had its issues stopping the run last season. It ranked 91st in Rushing Success Rate allowed while not allowing many explosive runs. That fits perfectly into Hull's style of running, as he is a downhill back who busts through the tackles and grinds out opposing defenses.

Duke vs. Northwestern Betting Pick

Duke may have looked like world beaters in Week 1, but it will have a tall task ahead of it. The Northwestern offense should be able to sustain drives, as Hull plows through the Blue Devils and Hilinski takes the top off with the play-action pass.

As for the other side of the ball, the Wildcats will need to keep Leonard in the pocket, but they will have the edge of an extra week of preparation coming off the early bye.

I would expect their scheme to contain him as much as possible.

This line jumped from eight to 10 upon opening, as the market clearly sees the mismatches present here. We have the Wildcats projected to win by 17.9, so there is plenty of value on the current number.

Pick: Northwestern -10 (Play to -13.5)

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