Northwestern vs Rutgers Odds & Prediction: Bet Sunday’s College Football Underdog
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Northwestern running back Cam Porter.
Northwestern vs Rutgers Odds
Northwestern and Rutgers meet for a defensive slugfest in Piscataway, New Jersey, on Sunday.
The news out of Northwestern this season all came off the field, as head coach Pat Fitzgerald was relieved of his duties as head coach after a hazing scandal. The Wildcats won one game last season, and it happened to be the first game of the year in Ireland against Nebraska. Ultimately, Northwestern actually didn't win a game in the United States last season.
Rutgers didn't have a much better season winning only four games. However, that's an improvement from where they've been as a program since they joined the Big Ten. Greg Schiano will now look to start the season on a high note against a program that finds itself in turmoil.
Where does the betting value lie in this Big Ten matchup? Let's dive into the Northwestern vs. Rutgers odds and make a pick for Sunday, Sept. 3.
With Fitzgerald out, new defensive coordinator David Braun has taken over as the interim head coach. Braun is the former defensive coordinator for North Dakota State and had tremendous success at the FCS level.
After everything that has happened in Evanston, Northwestern's motivation is going to be a key to handicap. The rumor is that the players demanded Braun become the head coach, or there would be a mass exodus via the transfer portal.
This is a terrible situation for Northwestern and 11 guys have hit the portal, but the players who stayed seemingly want to play for Braun.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it — this is going to be an ugly game. Northwestern averaged the fewest points of any Power 5 school. However, six of its losses came by 10 points or less, so a lot of things simply didn't go its way.
Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant won the quarterback battle over Brendan Sullivan and will start Sunday, according to ESPN's Pete Thamel.
Bryant performed well for the Bearcats before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 12 of last season. He put up an 81.8 PFF passing grade, averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and posted 23 big-time throws compared to 11 turnover-worthy plays.
The rest of the offense is a work in progress. The Wildcats lose their top running back from last season, the offensive line is inexperienced, and they'll be relying on some Power 5 transfers at wide receiver.
But with competent quarterback play, Northwestern will improve after a 1-11 season.
Defensively, Rutgers is going to be solid once again under Schiano. The Scarlet Knights finished 40th in EPA/Play Allowed and boasted a top-35 unit when it came to stopping the run.
They return eight starters, but all of the starters they lost were in the secondary, so they could be in trouble if Northwestern can perform even a little bit through the air.
Rutgers' offense was rough last year, and it doesn't look like things will improve much in 2023.
Gavin Wimsatt will be the starting quarterback after a pretty rough season, albeit in a limited sample size. Now, he dealt with injuries, but averaging just 5.1 yards per pass attempt with eight turnover-worthy plays compared to just three big-time throws is worrisome.
Couple that with the fact that Rutgers really struggled to run the ball with just 3.6 yards per carry and a rank of 122nd in EPA/Rush, and things are a bit concerning.
The Knights do return their top back in Kyle Monangai and have some experience across the offensive line, but it's most likely going to be a struggle for the Rutgers offense once again.
Northwestern vs. Rutgers
Betting Pick & Prediction
The question is, should Rutgers really be a -6.5 favorite over Northwestern?
I understand all of the off-the-field stuff that happened with Northwestern and the portal movement downgrades it in the market. But with a competent quarterback in Bryant under center, the Wildcats offense is going to be much better than what we saw last season, especially facing a secondary that returns only one starter.
The Rutgers offense is showing no signs of being any better than the team that finished 111th in Success Rate and 130th in explosiveness last season.
So, I don't think there's as big of a gap as the market is implying, especially given how motivated Northwestern appears to be to play for Braun.
I only have Rutgers projected as a -4.3 favorite, so I like the value on Northwestern at +6.5 or better.