FiveDimes recently released over/under regular season win totals for college football teams.

Here is an early season look at the Northwestern Wildcats in the Big 10.

Over/under

FiveDimes has Northwestern at 6.5 regular season wins. Last year, the Wildcats went 5-7 in the regular season. The line features a better return on the over at +110, while the under is at -150.

The upside

The non-conference schedule may toughen up Northwestern or may be a precursor of a tough season for the Wildcats.

Northwestern opens the season at home against Stanford, and then will travel to Duke two weeks later. Sure, the Blue Devils used to be a doormat, but today’s Duke is far different than the past two decades.

As showcased in the North Carolina State outlook, an easy non-conference schedule may not provide the difficult match-ups that help teams prepare for the conference season. So, it could be a good thing in the long run for the Wildcats to face two non-conference opponents as underdogs, and then square off against Ball State and Eastern Illinois as favorites.

That only gives the Wildcats a probable 2-2 record heading into Big 10 play (which doesn’t feature games against Ohio State or Michigan State), but it could offer enough of a look to give Northwestern an edge against Big 10 teams that may have taken the easy way out in the non-conference slate of games.

The Wildcats will bring back 15 starters from last season, giving it a quality nucleus, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Four cornerbacks return, and what was an extremely young defense last year, with multiple freshmen seeing significant playing time, will be far more experienced entering this season.

The downside

Quarterback play killed the Wildcats last season.

Northwestern quarterbacks completed only 57.4 percent of their passes, and in an offense predicated on short passing like Northwestern’s, that doesn’t bode well for an offense attempting to stay on the field.

That number will have to be much higher for the Wildcats to compete on a weekly basis this season. Last year’s team (which featured a heavy youth movement), didn’t play consistently. The Wildcats won back-to-back games against Penn State and Wisconsin, and then suffered four straight losses.

Then, when it appeared Northwestern had righted the ship and would make a bowl game with a home contest against Illinois in the season finale, it lost by two touchdowns.

As proven last season, the Wildcats have the talent to compete, as evidenced with wins at Notre Dame and Penn State, and at home against Wisconsin. However, it must be more consistent this season to reach seven wins, especially with road conference games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The verdict

The conference slate shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate through. The Wildcats will have winnable home games against Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue, and will travel to Illinois for a game it likely will be the favorite.

With the two non-conference games that it should win, the Wildcats would get to seven wins if they won those games. That also would leave games that it could potentially win, like at Nebraska, at Duke and at Michigan.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald will have Northwestern hungrier this year after missing bowl games in the previous two seasons. This year will feature plenty of one-touchdown spreads with Northwestern, so consistency will be the key for Northwestern achieving the over.

There’s continuity back for Northwestern, and there’s a good chance the Wildcats will surprise a few people this year. Without the major players in the Big 10 on the schedule, go with Northwestern to gain a couple of upsets and finish the regular season with seven or more wins.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*