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Is Northwestern’s Record Headed South?

Riley Lees Northwestern

Northwestern finished last season on an unbelievable eight-game winning streak that concluded with a narrow Music City Bowl victory over Kentucky, but carrying that hot streak over into 2018 could prove challenging as the Wildcats kick off their season Thursday night at Purdue. The hosts are 3-point favorites in what should be an evenly matched battle between two teams considered long shots at best to compete for the Big Ten title. The total opened at 51.5 for this game. For Northwestern, this game represents a chance to make up for back-to-back slow starts to the 2016 (1-3 SU) and 2017 (2-3 SU) seasons. The Wildcats also have the upper hand going into this one, having won six of the previous seven meetings while successfully covering five of those games. And it’s pivotal that Northwestern gets off to a fast start, with the schedule makers doing it no favors. The Wildcats will face four ranked teams in a six-game stretch from Sept. 29 to Nov. 3.

  • Purdue is 7-35 SU in its last 42 games against its conference.
  • The total has gone UNDER in Northwestern’s last four games in Week 1.
  • Purdue is 5-1 ATS in its last six games as home favorites.

View the Northwestern vs Purdue game matchup here


While neither of these teams is expected to challenge for the conference championship, they both come into their season opener riding solid trends. Northwestern has successfully covered 10 of its previous 12 road contests, including each of its final four games away from Ryan Field. Those covers were a pivotal part of the Wildcats’ seven-game cover streak to end the regular season, though it fell short of extending that run at the Music City Bowl, winning by one as an 8-point favorite. But the Wildcats’ recent road cover success will be put to the test against a Purdue team that has gone 5-1 ATS in its last six contests as a home fave. And in going 4-1 ATS as a home favorite last season, the Boilermakers won by double digits three times over that span. The only setback as a home favorite in 2017: a one-point loss to Nebraska last season as a 3.5-point favorite, a stunning defeat in which the Huskers scored the game-winning touchdown with 14 seconds remaining in regulation. 


Ross-Ade Stadium has produced considerable value for OVER bettors over the past two-plus seasons. Purdue has gone OVER in 13 of its previous 17 home games; those contests have produced an average total approaching 63. And while the majority of those high-scoring affairs occurred during the 2016 season – when the Boilermakers defense was torched for at least 44 points in five of their final seven games – there were plenty of back-and-forth games in 2017, as well. Each of Purdue’s last five regular-season OVERS have taken place at home, while the Boilermakers have racked up six consecutive UNDERS on the road. These two teams have also started to reverse a trend that had seen them play three UNDERS and a PUSH in games played at Purdue in a four-game span from 2003 to 2009. They’ve gone OVER in each of their last two meetings at Ross-Ade Stadium, and have combined to score at least 48 points in each of their past eight encounters there.


Northwestern’s incredible finish to the season included a little bit of history. The Wildcats became the first Football Bowl Subdivision program in history to appear in three consecutive overtime games and win each of them. The streak began with a 17-10 overtime win over Iowa on Oct. 21, and continued with a 39-31 triple-OT thriller over then-No. 16 Michigan State on Oct. 28. Northwestern forged its way into the record books the following Saturday, upending host Nebraska 31-24 in OT. The Wildcats were one of the top teams in the conference when it came to one-score victories, going 4-0 SU in games decided by eight points or less. And that’s where Northwestern might have the edge in a game that oddsmakers expect to be a tightly contested affair. The Boilermakers wound up at the opposite end of the spectrum when it came to close games, going just 1-4 SU in games decided by eight points or less. Their only victory in that span: a 31-24 triumph over Indiana, a game in which Purdue led by 21 with six minutes left.