Northwestern-Purdue Betting Guide: Are the Cats Being Undervalued?

Northwestern-Purdue Betting Guide: Are the Cats Being Undervalued? article feature image

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clayton Thorson

Northwestern at Purdue Betting Odds

  • Spread: Purdue -1
  • Over/Under: 52.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

>> All odds as of 6:30 a.m. ET on Thursday. Download The Action Network App or go to our CFB live odds page to get real-time odds and track your bets.

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College football is nearly in full swing. Thursday’s game between Purdue (-1) and Northwestern will be the first Power 5 clash of the season, as both teams kick off their campaigns to dethrone Wisconsin in the Big Ten West.

Coach Jeff Brohm worked wonders for Purdue in his first year, getting the Boilermakers to a bowl game for the first time since 2012 behind a stellar defense.

He coached top-20 offenses in his final two seasons at Western Kentucky, so expect this program to follow suit soon.

Last season, Northwestern won 10 games for the second time in three years. Pat Fitzgerald has this program playing with a level of consistency it has never reached before.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

For seven straight years, the under has been a profitable bet in Northwestern games under Fitzgerald.

Since Fitzgerald took the job in Evanston in 2006, the under is 86-59-2 (59.3%), earning bettors 22.2 units. That makes the Wildcats the most profitable under team in that span.

Even better: This trend has done the most damage early in the season.

Pat Fitzgerald’s Under Record Since 2006

Market Moves

By PJ Walsh

Purdue opened as a 3.5-point home favorite, and Northwestern has drawn slightly more total bets at 57%.

The Cats also have garnered the majority of actual dollars wagered (60%), yet the line has dropped to Purdue -1 across the betting market.

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson’s health could be a reason for the line move.

He’s recovering from knee surgery, and while Fitzgerald hasn’t announced if Thorson will play, reports out of Evanston say he looks great in camp. He has started the past three seasons for the Wildcats.

The total opened at 48.5 on Aug. 24 at Pinnacle, an offshore sportsbook that takes large wagers from professional bettors.

It was slowly bet all the way up to 53 this week, then back to 52.5. Nearly 75% of dollars wagered on the total in this game at Pinnacle have been on the over.

Bet Small Underdogs on the Moneyline

By John Ewing

A sharp play in college football is to bet small road underdogs on the moneyline. Oddsmakers tend to shade the lines toward favorites, creating value on the dog, which wins outright nearly 50% of the time.

Since 2005, small road underdogs (four or fewer points) have gone 553-606 straight-up, returning a profit of $9,541 for a $100 bettor.

Northwestern opened +128 on the moneyline, meaning a $100 bet would net you a $128 profit. It has since moved to around even-money.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

Everyone is focused on Thorson’s health, but Purdue’s defense has plenty of questions of its own. A group that ranked a very respectable 35th in the advanced metric defensive S&P+ last year is almost dead-last in returning production in the country.

With Thorson coming to town, that could be problematic.

Purdue is in a weird spot in Brohm’s second year, because although you’d like to see this team take a step forward, his recruiting impact has only been felt in the most recent class.

Help is on the way, but it won’t there Thursday night.

Although Northwestern isn’t the best team to take advantage of an untested secondary, its top two receivers are back, and Thorson can have success if healthy.

On the other side, Purdue’s offense should have success as well, with so much returning production and two experienced quarterbacks.

Northwestern won last year’s game 23-13, but the scoreline was a little deceiving.

The two teams gained more than 800 total yards, and Elijah Sindelar actually threw the ball 60(!) times, as Purdue kept trying unsuccessfully to come back, going for it on a several fourth downs.

Northwestern had three possessions in the red zone in the second half and came away with three field goals. It was the type of game that ultimately should have been much higher-scoring, and I think that’s more the type of game we’re likely to get Thursday.

Add in that these teams were both top 50 in adjusted pace last season, and I think there’s some value on the over at 51, or even 51.5.

If you follow me on Twitter or in The Action Network app, you know that I gave that out earlier in the week at 51.5, and now it’s currently 52.5 or 53 marketwide.

My advice is to wait rather than hop in now, and hope that the market comes back down.

Considering some projections from others I’ve seen, and trends that support Northwestern unders (which you’ve read about above), it’s possible a move back down is coming.

Authors of this article include The Action Network’s own: Evan Abrams, PJ Walsh, John Ewing and Ken Barkley.