The Badgers hope to finally start getting a sense of normalcy as they head into the Wisconsin at Northwestern pick. The #12 Badgers play their first game in consecutive weeks on Saturday when they visit #20 Northwestern.
Wisconsin’s 2-0 start has arguably been more impressive than the Wildcats being 4-0 out of the gate. Because of COVID postponements, the Badgers had three weeks off between their season opening win over Illinois and their drubbing of Michigan, but UW has still won both by 30+. Northwestern seems like they’ve scraped and clawed for their past three wins, but that resiliency makes them dangerous as +7.5 home underdogs Saturday afternoon.
Badgers Even More Dangerous on Saturday?
Wisconsin has scored 45+ in both of their wins this season. Illinois doesn’t put up much of a fight, but the Badgers still came out strong in their first game of the year winning 45-7 as -20.5 favorites against a team that beat them last season. It wouldn’t have been surprising for the Badgers to come out flat last week after having two games skipped, but UW pounded Michigan 49-11 on the road as -7 favorites.
Now the Badgers are back in a normal game week groove heading into the Wisconsin at Northwestern pick. UW has shown the ability to run and pass the ball despite their strange circumstances to begin the season. Graham Mertz was 20/21 for 248 yards and 5 TD vs. the Illini in his first college start, and Wisconsin ran the ball for 341 yards last week vs. Michigan.
Northwestern is 4-0, but they’ve been held to 28 points or less in the last three since a 43-3 win over Maryland. That’s concerning considering the Badgers defense has been nearly as impressive as their offense in allowing just 18 total points in two games. Wisconsin has the top total defense in the Big Ten by a large margin, allowing only 218.5 ypg.
Northwestern Keeps Knocking Down Challenges
It’s another big test for Northwestern on Saturday, but one could say that about nearly every game the Wildcats have played this year. So far Pat Fitzgerald’s team has belittled Taulia Tagovailoa (3 INT) and Maryland in a 40-point win in the opener, fought back from 17 down to win 21-20 in Iowa, and beaten Nebraska and Purdue by one score.
There are still two massive questions for Northwestern on Saturday though. Can the Wildcats’ defense stop Wisconsin’s potent offensive attack, and can Payton Ramsey and the NW offense keep up if this game does get high scoring? Ramsey tossed 3 TDs in the win over Purdue, but is also turnover prone with 4 INTs the last three games.
The Northwestern defense did hold Purdue’s #1 ranked passing offense in the Big Ten to 263 yards on 51 attempts last week. Nebraska did run for 224 yards in the week 10 loss, but the Wildcats’ #7 ranked rushing defense in the nation did hold Purdue to just 2 yards last week and Iowa to only 77 in week 9. The Wisconsin offensive line is a stiffer test though.
Free Wisconsin at Northwestern Pick
Six of the last seven games between these two teams have gone ‘under’ the betting total, which has been set at 44 for Saturday afternoon’s tilt. The home team has also won 8 of the last 10 head to head meetings outright, but both of those trends are going directly against a Wisconsin team that has shown the capability to hang 45 points at ease through two games.
The hook on the +7.5 spread looms large here, but ultimately it’s very hard to go against a Badgers team that is relatively fresh and extremely anxious to play football.
Wisconsin 27 – Northwestern 17
Free Pick: Wisconsin -7.5