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Northwestern vs. Wisconsin ATS Picks

NCAAF Week 5 Lines

The Wisconsin Badgers might be sporting a top 10 ranking and have a legitimate shot of playing in the College Football Playoff this year. That said, they’ve got what could end up being a trickier mission than you’d think in Week 5 of the season at home against the Northwestern Wildcats.

Northwestern Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Date and Time
: Saturday, September 30, 2017, 12 p.m. ET
Location: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
Opening College Football Odds: Wisconsin -13
Northwestern vs. Wisconsin TV Coverage: ABC

The Badgers are good, but we’re not sure just how good they really are. They’ve been at least two-touchdown favorites in each of their first three games of the season and walked away with easy wins in all three. They haven’t been explosive on offense, but they’ve certainly done more than enough to put away bad teams. The biggest problem they have? They don’t have a serious game to play until Michigan comes to town on November 18.

Alex Hornibrook had a great game against BYU last time out, completing 18-of-19 passes to set a school record for completion percentage in a game. But is he really a legitimate starting quarterback in the Big Ten? We suggest otherwise.

Wisconsin will have to keep its ground game going in this game and not rely on Hornibrook. Jonathan Taylor has been fantastic this season with 438 yards and five touchdowns, and this could be the game where he really breaks out and puts himself into the national spotlight.

Northwestern is no joke, though. The team’s loss at Duke looks better and better every time the Blue Devils step onto the field, and aside from that, the club has looked rather flawless.

There’s plenty of talent in this backfield with Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson. Jackson is the team’s workhorse with 55 carries already in three games. Thorson isn’t the best thrower on the planet, but he’s accounted for six total touchdowns and isn’t afraid to challenge even the best secondaries he runs up against.

Key Factor

Let’s remember that Northwestern came on strong at the end of last season. Sure, the Wildcats lost three of their final five games, but they also played against some good teams like Ohio State, Minnesota and this Wisconsin outfit. The club did what it had to do against the small guys and really challenged the big boys.

Now, there are 15 returners from last year’s starting lineup, including one of the better quarterbacks in recent memory and arguably the best running back in the school’s history.

The Badgers are quite young relative to that, and in spite of the immense talent on the field, there’s a tremendous class difference between the two in terms of experience on the field.

Northwestern vs. Wisconsin Free Picks

You can see where we’re going with this one. This game reminds us a lot of the Pitt/Clemson game from last season, just with stellar defense taking the place of outstanding offense. The Wildcats have playmakers all over the field on the defensive side of the ball, and they aren’t going to let this Wisconsin team flat out run all over them.

Thorson didn’t play well in last year’s game between these two, but he’s shown that he’s a capable quarterback in big spots. The Wildcats have a lot of confidence that he can ultimately turn out to be a respectable starter this year, and perhaps ruffle some feathers in games like this one.

Is it time to start taking the Wildcats seriously? None of the top online sportsbooks think so by making them 13-point underdogs. But we think they’ve got a real shot at Camp Randall. Maybe they don’t pull off this upset and just make things interesting. Either way, we know that we want the points on our side, and we think they can ultimately get the job done, sparing us all from hearing about how great 10-0 Wisconsin going into that Michigan game when in actuality, it wouldn’t have beaten much of anyone of note.

College Football ATS Pick: Northwestern +13 at
College Football Score Prediction: Northwestern 23, Wisconsin 17