Saturday’s Big 10 vs Pac-12 matchup features two teams that are expected to compete for a divisional crown within their respective conferences. Both Northwestern and #25 ranked Stanford are solid football programs with talent on both sides of the ball. However, each team does have some concerns heading into this big gridiron battle. Kickoff for the Northwestern vs Stanford game inside Stanford Stadium is at 4 PM ET.
|Betting Data||Northwestern Wildcats||Stanford Cardinal|
|2018 ATS Home||2-3-2||3-3|
|2018 ATS Away||4-1||4-1-1|
|2018 O/U Home||3-4||3-3|
|2018 O/U Away||4-3||4-3|
This Week 1 battle will be the eighth time these two schools have played against each other since their first encounter in 1933, which ended in a 0-0 tie. Currently, Stanford holds a slight advantage with a 3-2-2 record. These two squads last faced off in September 2015, and Northwestern pulled off the upset over Stanford led by Christian McCaffrey who broke Barry Sanders’ record for the most NCAA all-purpose yards that year.
Northwestern (0-0) is coming off a 9-5 season which saw them win the Big Ten West division and play in the Big Ten championship game for the first time. Their 8-1 conference record was very impressive and helped turn around a season where they started off 1-3. The Wildcats return nine starters on defense, a slew of offensive playmakers, and will feature a highly talented QB in his first year as a starter.
Stanford (0-0) was pegged to compete for the Pac-12 South division title last year, but underperformed when they finished 9-4. Their key playmaker RB Bryce Love was injured for the better part of the year, which derailed their season some. They do return KJ Costello at QB, which gives them a leg up over other teams in the conference. However, there are many holes on both sides of the ball where Stanford will need new players to step up and fill.
There hasn’t been any movement with the spread since it first opened with Stanford favored by 6.5 points. Most of the college football betting sites have kept the spread at 6.5 points. The over/under has seen movement with many online betting sites. The over/under opened at 50 points, but has dropped down to 48 total points.
Northwestern could actually have the better defense when these two teams play on Saturday. They return nine starters, including one of the Big 10’s top defensive linemen in Joe Gaziano and their two top linebackers Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher. These two LBs form one of the best duos in the conference and Fisher could be talked about as one of the best linebackers in all of college football.
On the offensive side of the ball, the team’s success will fall on the arm of five-star recruit Hunter Johnson who transferred from Clemson last year. After sitting out all of 2018, Johnson is ready to lead this team. Almost all of the skill players from last season are back to offer Johnson a solid supporting cast, which is more than we can say about Stanford.
The Cardinal offense will go as far as QB KJ Costello can take them. However, he will be playing with almost an entirely new supporting cast as they lost their top four playmakers to the NFL Draft this spring. A big problem for the Cardinal offense last year was an inconsistent offensive line. This season, Little and Sarell are expected to anchor an improved o-line, which should help Costello and the running game. However, both did struggle with injuries last year and will need to remain healthy for this team to have success in the Pac-12.
Defensively, Stanford took a step back in 2018. It was a surprise considering head coach David Shaw is a defensive-minded coach. The defense will be led by an All-American corner in Paulson Adebo. With only five returning starters, there will be new pieces in every level of the defense. Even so, Stanford should have a decent pass rushing attack.
Northwestern is 8-2 SU in their last 10 overall games, 8-0 SU in their last eight road games, 5-1 ATS in their last six August games, 13-2 SU in their last 15 Week 1 games, 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games as an underdog, and 16-8 SU in their last 24 games played on a Saturday.
Stanford is 12-2 SU in their last 14 home games, but 14-11 ATS in their last 25 overall games, 3-3 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points, and 4-4 ATS in their last eight non-conference games.
Stanford has too many question marks on both sides of the ball to justify a spread this high. They have two solid o-linemen and three unknowns. Their wide receivers are unproven as their top weapons are gone. Defensively, they were average last year and lost playmakers this season.
Although Northwestern has a question mark with Johnson at QB, he does have the talent to be even better than four-year starter Clayton Thorson. The Wildcats bring back most of their skilled players and offensive linemen. Defensively, they will be just as good if not better than last year. Bottom line, they have less question marks on both sides of the ball than Stanford does.
I think Northwestern has a shot at winning this game outright. However, for this bet, let’s play it safe and take the Wildcats getting 6.5 points on the road at Stanford.
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