College Football Odds & Picks for Wisconsin vs. Northwestern: Betting Value Lies With Badgers Over Wildcats
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Graham Mertz.
- It will be a batlle of two undefeated Big Ten West teams when the Northwestern Wildcats host the Wisconsin Badgers in Evanston.
- With Graham Mertz back in the fold, the Badgers finally have a reliable weapon at quarterback against a Wildcat squad that has thoroughly improved with Peyton Ramsey at the helm.
- Collin Wilson breaks down the game and explains how he's betting it below.
Wisconsin vs. Northwestern Odds
|Wisconsin Odds||-8.5 [BET NOW]|
|Northwestern Odds||8.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-345 / +255 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||44.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET|
The Badgers should be commended for their performance to this point, as plenty of players dealt with COVID-19 during the two-week hiatus between dates against Illinois and Michigan. Quarterback Jack Coan was originally slated to be the starter, but a preseason injury gave way to Graham Mertz. The freshman has posted an outstanding 74% completion rate along with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. That number is even more outstanding considering four of his 11 incompletions were drops by receivers.
Listeners of the Action Network podcast know that we've mention the explosive rushing attack — or the lack thereof. That was the analysis on Nakia Watson, who averages 2.7 yards after contact.
However, the Badgers may have resolved that issue with the switch to Jalen Berger. After receiving zero carries against Illinois, Berger took the lion's share of carries in the Michigan game for 87 total yards and an astounding 5.12 yards after contact.
There goes that man ❗️❗️❗️
— All-American Bowl (@AABonNBC) November 15, 2020
The defense has held up its end of the bargain, especially in the area of Havoc. The Badgers finished second in Havoc last season and had to replace many of those contributors entering 2020. Wisconsin now ranks third in defensive Havoc with 22% of snaps resulting in an opponent disruption.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to a 1-8 Big Ten record in 2019. Now, he has produced the biggest turnaround in college football with a 4-0 record this season. With only four games remaining, Wisconsin presents the only hurdle to returning to the conference championship game.
How has Northwestern pulled off such an amazing feat? The answer comes in finishing drives, third downs and transfer-quarterback Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey leads a passing attack that ranks 18th in Success Rate. With Northwestern executing a rush-heavy attack, the Wildcats average 6.4 yards to gain on third-down attempts and rank top-30 in conversions.
The defense also deserves plenty of credit for the undefeated record. Northwestern is fifth in defending opponent pass explosiveness and ranks second in Stuff Rate. It's a great combination to stop the long pass and short-yardage attempts in the trench, but a rank of 10th in Finishing Drives reveals that the Wildcats play their best defense near the goal line. Also give the secondary its due credit for ranking third in passes defended per game.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Mother Nature is planning on having a say in this game, with Ryan Field forecasted for an increasing chance of rain and wind gusts in the double-digits as the game goes on.
These teams rank top-20 in coverage defense, Finishing Drives and Opponent Passing Success Rate. The market has steamed the under to the low 40s, but with the weather predicted to be stable through the first half, an investor should look for a live total under after early scoring.
Despite all the excitement around Mertz under center, the Badgers are still a run-first team. That may be a positive for Wisconsin, as Northwestern has feasted on passing attacks. The Wildcats must contain the newfound explosiveness of Berger. With a rank of 13th in Line Yards and second in Stuff Rate, there is an expectation Northwestern will stop Wisconsin on the ground.
The handicap comes down to whether or not the Wildcats will do enough on offense to cover a spread north of a touchdown. Northwestern is 110th in Rushing Success Rate with freshmen on the offensive line. That will not get the job against a Wisconsin defense that ranks among the best in the nation against the rush. Yes, the Badgers' opponents have been Michigan and Illinois, but the Wildcats managed only 80 rushing yards in bad weather against a Purdue front seven last week.
The biggest volume play should be a live wager to the under after early scoring in the first half if the forecast holds for 25 mph gusts and rain in the second half.
Northwestern will not have an answer for a Wisconsin defense that is dominating in the trenches and producing turnovers. The weather may make this a one-dimensional rushing matchup in which the Badgers have an advantage. In a game with such a low total, this is a rare but necessary spot to pay the juice for the hook.
Pick: Wisconsin -7 (-120 or better).