Northwestern vs. Nebraska Betting Odds & Pick: Back Saturday’s Home Favorite
Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Adrian Martinez.
Northwestern vs. Nebraska Odds
|Nebraska Odds||+3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Northwesters Odds||-3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+133/-175 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||52 [BET NOW]|
|Time||12 p.m. ET|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
It will be strength on strength in Evanston on Saturday.
The athletic Adrian Martinez — possibly with a little help from Luke McCaffrey (Christian’s little brother) — looks to move the ball on the ground against a Northwestern defense that continues to be surprisingly stout against the run
On the other side, it’s been a while since the real Blackshirt defense terrorized opponents. In fact, it’s been a long while. The strength of this Nebraska defense lies in its secondary. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, they haven’t been able to stop the run in years, and that might continue on Saturday.
As matchups go, Saturday’s game isn’t a great one for the Cornhuskers.
When the Wildcats shut down and routed Maryland on the Big Ten’s opening weekend, it was universally dismissed as, “Oh, that’s just Maryland.” However, after Taulia Tagovailoa led to Terps to 45 points last Saturday, maybe it’s time to revisit our initial hypothesis.
Northwestern is currently second in FBS in rush yards allowed per game (70.5) and tied for 18th in yards per rush attempt (3.3). This is a unit that also stopped the run last season (32nd in FBS), including the game in Lincoln in which it held the Cornhuskers to 3.25 yards per rush attempt and only 13 total points.
We know Pat Fitzgerald’s Cats have started the season very well. What most probably don’t know is that Northwestern is 7-3-0 ATS as a home conference favorite since 2015. This is the spot in which it finds itself on Saturday. Not only has it historically won these games, but it has also outperformed expectations.
We also know Northwestern likes to grind out their wins. Why not just take the under? After all, the Wildcats are 8-14-0 to the over as a home conference favorite and an astounding 13-36-1 overall to the over as a home favorite in Fitzgerald’s tenure. Shockingly, The Action Network reports that while only 29% of bets are currently being placed on the over, the over is receiving 94%(!!!!!!) of the money. This tells us people who are betting the over are betting very large sums of money. The prudent play is usually to follow the money. Since I disagree so strongly, I am simply going to pass on the total.
Martinez and head coach Scott Frost arrived in Lincoln to great fanfare. Following a pair of 3-8 and 5-7 seasons, the time is now to begin living up to the (unfairly?) massive expectations of the Cornhusker faithful. If not, both of their seats will start getting warm.
After all, Frost was a magician during his time as offensive coordinator of Oregon and head coach of Central Florida. What’s the problem in Lincoln?
As with all Frost offenses, this one likes to work fast (27th in FBS last season), and even though it relies very heavily on the run, it was fairly efficient moving the ball in 2019 (58th in yards per play) last season. However, Nebraska was nowhere near efficient enough on cashing those yards into points (124th in FBS in yards per point in 2019).
Part of the reason is that Martinez has not shown the ability to protect the football. He accounted for 17 total turnovers in 2019, with nine interceptions. A QB with only 25.1 attempts per game simply can’t be throwing nearly one per game to the other team. This could be problematic against a Northwestern Wildcat bunch that has already forced six interceptions in two games.
If Martinez can’t get it done, Nebraska might just have a quarterback controversy on its hands. Sophomore backup QB Luke McCaffrey might be the most popular player on the team. Unlike most backups quarterbacks, however, McCaffrey’s hype is aided by what was seen on the field. Frost inserted McCaffrey at RB early against Ohio State, and he rewarded that decision with a 47-yard run reminiscent of his big brother.
On the other side of the ball, this team hasn’t stopped the run in recent years (93rd and 109th in FBS in yards per rush attempt allowed the last two seasons), has lost both defensive ends from its 3-4 scheme, and has question marks at linebacker. This could be a problem against a Northwestern team that wants to move the ball on the ground (second in FBS in rush attempts per game).
Betting Analysis & Pick
The WIldcats like to keep the grass long in order to mitigate opposing team speed. The defense stops the run and ranks third nationally in SP+. This matches up perfectly with a Nebraska team whose backfield prefers to move fast. Look for the Northwestern defense to slow down Nebraska while its offense does enough to secure the cover.
Pick: Northwestern -3.5 (-110) (up to 4)