Northwestern finished 2017 with a 10-3 overall record and a 9-4 record against the spread. They are a quality program that is unfortunately in a very difficult conference. They finished the 2017 regular season with 7 straight wins and finished the season with a bowl win against Kentucky.
The offense is led by Senior Clayton Thorson. He is a capable passer and should take another step forward in 2018. Running back Justin Jackson who went for over 1300 yards last season will be in the backfield of the Los Angeles Chargers this season, so he will be missed. The receiving corps is capable and overall the unit really clicked down the stretch last season, especially against the less talented teams in the conference. The 29.2 per game scoring average is expected to increase this season.
The defense is very good, allowing 20.1 point per game last season and returning 7 starters. The defense is dominant against bad teams which allows Northwestern to cover big lines against overmatched foes. It struggles a bit against the elite in the conference, but should improve a bit this season, especially against the run.
The total wins over/under for Northwestern is 6.5 and the odds to win the Big Ten are +3000. Despite having a very solid team, we are concerned with their ability to reach seven wins. Northwestern has one of the 15-20 toughest schedules in the nation, including games against Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. To exceed 6.5 wins would require Northwestern to go 7-1 for the rest of the season, which may be difficult. We will pass on both futures bets.
Week #1 is a road game against Purdue. There is not a huge gap in talent between the programs and this is a road game. However, we feel like Northwestern, at least at this point in the season is a better team than Purdue and will be victorious on the road. The line is currently Northwestern +3 and this will be a modest play for us in Week 1.
Week #2 is a home game against Duke. Duke is above average defensively, but lacks offensive punch. We foresee a double digit win by Northwestern in this spot with a rebound from last season’s blowout on the road.
Week #3 is a home game against Akron of the MAC. Northwestern won big against Bowling Green of the same conference last season, albeit Akron is a better program. Akron is average defensively, but struggles on the offensive end. We expect Akron to have trouble scoring against the Northwestern defense.
Week #4 is a bye week.
Week #5 is a home game against the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan is a national championship contender and one of the elite Big Ten programs. They have one of the best defenses in the country and arguably the best in the Big Ten. We expect Michigan to shut down Northwestern. Michigan is also led by a strong Quarterback in Shea Patterson who should be able to move the ball in the air, even if Northwestern shuts down the Wolverines on the ground. We expect this to be a long day and nothing like the triple overtime game from last season.