2019 Northwestern Wildcats College Football Odds and Expert Betting Picks
2018 Record: 9-5
2019 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 6.5
2019 Season Win Total Picks NCAA Football: 'Under'
Pat Fitzgerald just continues to produce as one of the best head coaches in the country. Northwestern is coming off a season in which they won the Big Ten West, went to the league title game, and scored a bowl upset over Utah. Northwestern has won 19 games the past two seasons and has rung up four straight winning years.
Northwestern has been one of the best bets in college football over the last four seasons. They are 33-20 against the spreads in those games, and the Wildcats are 14-3 ATS in their last five seasons. Northwestern is also 26-10 straight up and 25-11 ATS in Big Ten play the last four years. They are just flat-out getting it done.
Fitzgerald is going to have some work to do with this year's squad if he wants to keep Northwestern competing at the top of the Big Ten. This team lost a lot from last year, starting with quarterback Clayton Thorson. Their top two wideouts are also gone, as is the majority of the starting offensive line.
Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson, a former top recruit, looks to take over the quarterback position for the Wildcats. How he develops could make or break their season.
Things appear much more optimistic on the defensive side. Northwestern has four three-year starters on that side of the ball. They welcome back their top five tacklers and five of last season's front seven.
Northwestern was not as good as their record last year suggests. They were actually outgained on the season. The Wildcats were No. 124 in the nation in yards per play, No. 99 in scoring, and No. 107 in total offense.
The Wildcats have one of the most challenging opening schedules in college football. They start the year at Stanford. They have a bye and then an easy opener against a weak UNLV team. Then things ramp up in a major way with games against Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Nebraska and then, after another bye, versus Ohio State. That means five of their first six games are against teams ranked in the preseason Top 26.
There is a realistic chance that this team could be 1-5 and completely dazed heading into their Oct. 26 homecoming game against Iowa.
If Fitzgerald can hold the team together, then I think they have a chance to scramble for a bowl appearance in the back half of the year. That wouldn't be a stretch; they started last season 1-3 before eventually winning the division with two games to play. The Wildcats have three straight November home games and winnable road games at Indiana and at Illinois.
Fitzgerald is excellent. But it is not as if he is immune to losing seasons. Northwestern went 5-7 in both 2013 and 2014, a stretch that followed a 10-win 2012 breakout. I can see a similar slide this season. I'll take the 'under'.
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