The No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers finally covered a spread greater than 17 points as they routed Illinois 49-20 in their homecoming contest on Saturday.
While it wasn’t the prettiest game, the Badgers still did a lot of good things en route to the victory against a much lesser opponent. Though the players and coaching staff probably do not care too much about the spread, it is important to us common men. In last week’s post, I suggested laying the 25 points and we came out with a victory, making the record 3-4 ATS in picks.
This week, Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) travel to Evanston for a battle with the Northwestern Wildcats. For the total, the number opened at 49.5 and has had steam from sharp bettors putting 65% of the money on the over to move it to 51. The spread opened with Wisconsin as a 6.5 point favorite, and has been steadily bet up to the troublesome seven \-point mark. This line has fluctuated between 6.5-7.5 throughout the week, until the news of Alex Hornibrook in concussion protocol broke. Reports have said that Hornibrook may not be able to go, and oddsmakers have adjusted the line down to a -4 mark in favor of the Badgers. With so much up in the air, here are some notable trends to help you decide:
- Wisconsin is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games
- Wisconsin is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games at Northwestern
- Wisconsin is 1-4 SU in its last five games at Northwestern
- Wisconsin is 1-2 ATS against Northwestern in the Paul Chryst Era
- Northwestern is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games
- Northwestern is 10-5 ATS in its last fifteen games
- The total has gone under in 15 of the last 21 games in Evanston
To me, there is one glaring trend above, and that’s bullet point two. Wisconsin is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games at Northwestern. I do not know what it is, but Evanston is a tough place to play. Especially at 11 a.m. when it feels as though the stadium is still empty and asleep. It has a lulling affect on the opponent. You start slow and next thing you know the half is over and you’re down 10-0. The Evanston voodoo magic has clearly worked on Wisconsin, where the Badgers have struggled when they go to Northwestern since 1999 (sans 2016’s win).
If they don’t start faster the same could happen this week.
The Pick: Northwestern (+4)
Generally an injury confusion like this would make me stay away from the game entirely as there are so many unknowns that go into to. However, if I have to pick a side I would lean toward a home dog in this spot. With the possibility of Jack Coan making his first career start on the road, the value clearly lies with Northwestern until we hear the final word in regard to the injury report.
Despite that I still think Wisconsin is starting to really click on the offensive side of the football. The offensive line had its best week last week, and Northwestern’s front seven could be overwhelmed with the rushing attack of Jonathan Taylor and Taiwan Deal. Northwestern is 49th in rush defense overall, but they’ve yet to see an attack like Wisconsin’s since their date with Michigan. If Coan is the starter, the Badgers will run the ball more than ever, which could spell trouble for Northwestern.
I believe this is the more favorable play. Wisconsin is 5-2 in favor of the over this season, and Northwestern is 4-3. I like the over 51 in this one as Wisconsin’s offense is starting to click and should still have relative success with Coan under center, and the defense may struggle against the pass attack of Northwestern. The Wildcats have been one-dimensional since running back Jeremy Larkin was forced to retire from a spinal condition. They’ve averaged 2.7 yards per carry this season, a disappointing mark for their offense. While the Badgers secondary did play better against Illinois, they’re still going to give up some chunk plays. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson has a ton of experience, and he should bode well against a learning defense. With both offense’s having favorable advantages, I think 51 points is very obtainable.