Something’s got to give in the NCAAF week 12 Big Ten free pick as Northwestern puts their 4-0 road record on the line at Minnesota, who is 5-1 at home this year. The Wildcats are ranked #22 in the country but find themselves +3 point underdogs vs. the Golden Gophers, who need one win in the last two weeks to become bowl eligible. It’s a beautiful 23º in Minneapolis this morning with snow flurries expected for this 12CST kickoff – is that Gopher or Wildcat weather?
Northwestern On an Impressive Run To Wind Down the Year
Northwestern has run their record to 6-4 on the season and have already clinched the Big Ten West title. The Wildcats have gotten into this position by winning 5 of their last 6 with their only loss over that span vs. #3 Notre Dame. Defense has been the name of the game for Pat Fitzgerald’s team as they rank 35th in the country vs. the run. Iowa managed just 64 yards on the ground last week, Notre Dame averaged just 3.0 ypc the week before, and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor had just 46 yards on 11 carries in week 10. The Golden Gophers used a 265 yard performance on the ground to upset Purdue last week but is that going to be available today? Minnesota threw for just 150 yards last week and could struggle through the air again today in adverse weather.
While the Northwestern defense should be stout in today’s contest, their offense has to have confidence too especially after beating Minnesota 39-0 in last year’s matchup. 3 of QB Clayton Thorson’s 9 completions in that contest went for TD as the Wildcats threw for just 86 yards total in that game. 277 yards on the ground was the key to that game and probably will be again today. The Golden Gophers looked better after making some changes to their defensive coaching and philosophy but they’re still very susceptible vs. the run. Two weeks ago Illinois ran the ball 35 times for 430 yards vs. Minnesota which means it could be a big day for NW RB Isaiah Bowser who has three 100+ yard rushing games in his last four.
Golden Gophers Absolutely Need Today’s Game For Bowl Eligibility
P.J Fleck’s team is running out of opportunities to get to their 6th win and become bowl eligible for the first time under the 2nd year coach. With the regular season finale coming next weekend in Madison vs. the Badgers the NCAAF week 12 Big Ten free pick is the best opportunity for Minnesota to get that 6th win. They’re in the right place to do it as the team has gone 5-1 at TCF Bank Stadium this season. Minnesota looked great in a 41-10 beatdown of a tough Purdue team last week (as +10 underdogs) but needs to overcome the demons of last year’s 39 point loss to this Northwestern squad. In that 2017 game the Gophers had just 182 yards of offense.
Something to note about Minnesota is that in their three Big Ten home games they are averaging over 35 points a contest. That trend will be put to the test today against a Northwestern defense that has held 5 of their last 7 opponents to 20 points or less however. The Gophers will once again go with Tanner Morgan under center. The freshman is in a tough spot vs. the Wildcat D but he had back-to-back 250+ yard games before last week’s 139 yard effort vs. Purdue. The QB does have one of the best targets in the Big Ten in Tyler Johnson who has 948 yards and 9TD on the year. Freshman Rashod Bateman also put up a 7 catch, 175 yard day with 2TD vs. Illinois two weeks ago. In that regards today’s O/U of 47.5 is kind of hard to gauge.
NCAAF Week 12 Big Ten Free Pick Betting
When you see a ranked team getting points vs. an unranked opponent as Northwestern is today it becomes very appealing. This is especially true when that team is undefeated on the road this season. The Wildcats have also won 13 of their last 14 Big Ten games but you have to wonder how focused NW is on this game between the chilly weather and the fact that their ticket to the Big Ten championship game is already punched. Minnesota played much better defense last week against a Purdue offense that is better than Northwestern’s. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats are missing 4 of their top 5 DB’s today and it should be a big day for the Golden Gophers passing game.
Big Ten Free Pick: Minnesota Golden Gophers -3