Northwestern Betting Odds Preview
After making five straight bowl appearances the Wildcats suffered through one of those lost seasons last year in which everything seems to go wrong. They started off well enough, but when the Big Ten season rolled around the 'Cats couldn't catch a break and lost seven games in a row.
But that's all in the past; this year Northwestern returns a slew of starters on both sides of the ball, and now only hopes for a little better luck. And the goal for the Wildcats isn't just to return to a bowl; they've got bigger things in mind, like a division championship.
Northwestern started 4-0 last year, putting up some very nice numbers on offense along the way. But in the game that turned the whole season around the Wildcats lost a very tough battle with Ohio State, and never recovered. They got whipped at Wisconsin, lost close games to Minnesota, at Iowa, at Nebraska (Hail Mary) and at home to Michigan, then got spanked by Michigan State. The 'Cats then avoided what could have been a winless Big Ten campaign with a victory over Illinois to finish 5-7 and home for the holidays.
Also, a season after going 11-1-1 ATS, Northwestern went 3-9 ATS last year.
The Wildcats ended up two games under .500 last year, but only got out-scored on the season by 11 points.
This year the 'Cats get back 16 starters, third-most in the conference. Eight starters are back on offense, including last year's leading rusher, top two receivers and the entire offensive line. And that doesn't include senior QB Trevor Siemian, who completed 60 percent of almost 300 passes last year while splitting snaps with the departed Kain Colter. And eight starters return on defense, including five of last year's top six tacklers.
Northwestern opens this season with three very winnable home games, then from there hosts Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan, and visits Penn State, Minnesota, Iowa and Notre Dame. The 'Cats then finish with another couple winnable matches, at Purdue and at home against Illinois. And they miss Ohio State and Michigan State, which is nice.
With a good bounce or two, and they probably feel they're due, the Wildcats could contend for the West Division title.
Big Ten Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
Ohio State 10/11
Michigan State 15/4
One of the most entertaining teams in college football, the Northwestern Wildcats got the big monkey off their back last year, breaking a 64-year bowl victory drought.
The 'Cats from Evanston went 10-3 last season and, believe it or not, could have won each of the games they lost. This year most of the roster returns, but the schedule gets a little tougher.
The Wildcats only had 10 starters back last season from a team that went 6-7 in 2011, so while they were hopeful of a fifth straight bowl bid, that was about the limit as far as expectations were concerned. Little did we know. The 'Cats opened 5-0, with wins over bowl-bound Syracuse and Vanderbilt, before losing at Penn State.
The Wildcats then beat Minnesota but lost to Nebraska, beat Iowa but lost in overtime at Michigan, then won at Michigan State and blew out Illinois. Northwestern then got to 10 wins with a 34-20 victory over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, allowing head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his troops to finally tear up “Mr. Monkey.” And think about this - the Wildcats led Penn State 28-17 in the fourth quarter before allowing the Lions to rally; they led Nebraska 28-16 in the fourth quarter before allowing the Huskers to come back and hand them a one-point loss; and they led Michigan by a field goal in the final half-minute before allowing a 50-yard completion that led to a game-tying field goal, and an overtime defeat. Northwestern also went a wonderful 11-1-1 ATS last year, thanks to a +14 turnover ratio, making it the most profitable team in college football (along with Utah State).
This year the Wildcats return 15 starters; eight are back on offense, led by senior QB Kain Colter and 1,300-yard rusher Venric Mark; and seven starters return on defense, including five of the defensive back seven. Northwestern will have to replace three starters on the offensive line and half the defensive line, but that doesn't seem like too tall a task. This year's schedule begins with four winnable non-conference games, starting off with a trip to Berkeley for a date with Cal.
The 'Cats then begin their Big Ten slate by hosting Ohio State and visiting Wisconsin, two teams they didn't have to play last year. Northwestern later plays at Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, and hosts Michigan and Michigan State. From afar it would seem the Wildcats might be favored in as many as seven or eight games this season. Win all those, and pull an upset or two, and they'll be right back in the running for 10 wins, and maybe even a division title.
Big Ten Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 5
Ohio State -115
Michigan State +800