Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Betting Picks

November 19, 2020

Date:Saturday, November 21st
Time:3:30 PM ET
Network:ABC
Venue:Ryan Field
Spread:Wisconsin -7.5
O/U:44

The 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers will go on the road Saturday afternoon to face off with the 4-0 Northwestern Wildcats at 3:30 PM ET in Ryan Field. The Wildcats might have more games under their belt, but the Badgers are the team with more national hype. You can watch the showdown on ABC. The Badgers come in as 7.5-point road favorites and we’re expecting a defensive showdown with just a 44 over/under. If Wisconsin wins this game, they have a 21% chance to make the playoff. If Northwestern wins, their odds rise to 8%. Let’s dive into how this one will go down and who will cover the spread. Make sure to check out the rest of my CFB Picks and Predictions for this massive weekend slate of games.

Trends

  • Northwestern is 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 games.
  • Wisconsin is 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games against Northwestern.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Northwestern’s last 5 games at home.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Northwestern’s last 5 games played in week 12.

When The Wisconsin Badgers Have The Ball

The Badgers are 2-0 on the season and are coming off a 49-11 whooping over the Michigan Wolverines in a game that was over before it started. The team is fully healthy and they’ve looked phenomenal on both sides of the football. They’ve won their first two games of the season by a combined score of 94-18. They’ll get their biggest test yet against the 19th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats and a win will put them in the discussion for a top-8 spot. It’s also a must-win if they want to keep their CFB Playoff hopes alive.

The Badgers are led by freshman QB Graham Mertz, who looks to be the best quarterback since Russell Wilson to get under center at Wisco. It’s only been two games, but he’s completed 74.4% of his passes en route to 375 yards and seven touchdowns. He hasn’t turned the ball over yet and has been great both in the pocket and on the run. He doesn’t scramble much, but has shown he can avoid the negative play and he’s very smart with throwing the football away when necessary.

Wisconsin wants to run the ball as much as possible. While the back-to-back blowouts have allowed the Badgers to run the ball nearly 75% of the time, they will still run it 25 to 30 times in every game. Sophomore halfback Nakia Watson leads the way with 127 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Three other backs have carried it 10+ times with Jalen Berger the most effective. He’s averaged 5.8 YPC with 87 yards and a score. Wisconsin will run it early and often in this one.

When Mertz does drop back, he’s primarily looking for TE Jake Ferguson. He’s one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the entire country and he’s hauled in 11 balls for 123 yards and four touchdowns through just two contests. Mertz obviously feels comfortable with the big target and seven-plus targets is a fair expectation. Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor start on the outside and both have been involved heavily with four and five catches apiece.

When The Northwestern Wildcats Have The Ball

The Wildcats have been up for every test thrown their way to this point, mowing down four straight solid teams by an average of 10+ points. They’re most recently coming off a 27-20 win over the Purdue Boilermakers in a game that Northwestern led from start to finish. It was always close, but the Wildcats always seemed to be in control of the game. According to the ESPN live win probability, their chances to win never dipped below 68%. They will get their toughest test of the season by far this week against Wisconsin.

The Wildcats are anchored by their defense, who gives them a chance to compete against anyone. They run out three senior LB’s and they all have 33+ total tackles through four games. Then there’s Brandon Joseph in the secondary, who has three interceptions on the young season and is a CB that will be drafted in the first three rounds. These linebackers will not only be tasked with stopping the Wisconsin run game, but they’ll also have to slow Jake Ferguson down, who is the Badgers biggest threat through the air.

Offensively, Northwestern is extremely balanced. They’ve passed it 119 times to 111 rushes. Senior QB Peyton Ramsey has been a lot better in his fourth season under center and he’s thrown for 723 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s added 122 yards and a score on the ground and has done a good job avoiding sacks. Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Kyric McGowan have been the two primary targets and RCB is a monster in the red zone with three of the six Wildcats touchdowns.

When Northwestern runs the ball, Drake Anderson and Isaiah Bowser split carries. Anderson has put up 198 yards and two scores to Bowser’s 182 yards and a touchdown. Bowser has added seven receptions as well, and is the bigger threat to take it to the house on any given play. This isn’t an explosive offense and will look to methodically work the ball down the field.

Spread Prediction

The Pick: Northwestern +7.5

The Wildcats are going to keep this game competitive and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won it. I do think the Badgers escape with the victory, but Northwestern is going to make it extremely tough on both sides of the football. They make very few mistakes offensively and won’t give an inch defensively. This number is over a full touchdown and there is no way I am comfortable laying that much on a Wisconsin team that doesn’t have an easy time scoring the ball. I don’t mind sprinkling the money line here, but will play it safe and take the 7.5 points with Northwestern at home. I don’t think these teams are all that far apart.

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Total Prediction

The Pick: Under 44
Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 17

This total is low for good reason. Both of these teams rely on their defenses and neither offense is lethal. Against one another, expect a whole lot of running the football and plenty of punts. The over seems to be the popular pick and it always will be at this number in 2020. These teams just don’t play like the rest of the country and I have this game projected closer to 40 than 50.

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