No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats Betting Preview

Saturday, December 19, 2020, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana, noon  ET

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats Betting Preview: Buckeyes  (-20.5), Wildcats (+20.5)

Buckeyes

No. 9 Ohio State is playing for more than just its fourth straight Big Ten title.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 5-0 Big Ten) are looking to cement their spot in the College Football Playoff despite critics contending they haven’t played enough games and weren’t impressive when they did play.

“Like I’ve been telling a lot of my teammates, we have to blow them out,” Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade said. “We have to come to play. … We have to show the world what we can do.”

The Buckeyes have had three of their last five games postponed due to COVID-19 issues, including last week’s game against Michigan. Day said he expects most of the 23 players who missed the Dec. 5 game at Michigan State because of COVID-19, injuries or other illnesses to be cleared to play against Northwestern.

The cancellation of the game against Michigan left Ohio State one game short of the minimum six the conference declared would be needed to play in the championship game, but the league then relented and gave the Buckeyes a waiver.

They were the only undefeated team in the conference and notched a 42-35 win over second-place Indiana in the East Division. The Buckeyes have played only once since the win over the Hoosiers on Nov. 21, routing Michigan State on Dec. 5.

Justin Fields has been the leader for the Buckeyes. Fields is 107-for-137 (78.1 percent) passing for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, with three interceptions. All the picks came in the win over Indiana.

“The way that he carries himself, the way he leads that offense and the team, he makes such great decisions with the ball,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

A win over Northwestern should earn the Buckeyes a shot at their first national championship since 2014.

“This team can play with anybody in the country,” Day said. “To go undefeated and win the Big Ten championship, that speaks for itself.”

Wildcats

No. 14 Northwestern (6-1, 6-1) knows the odds are against it, just as they were in the 2018 conference title game, which the Buckeyes won 45-24. But this is a different group of Wildcats.

“I think last time we had the approach of we were happy to win the West,” Wildcats receiver Riley Lees said. “But I think our goals have superseded that, and our expectation now is to win the Big Ten championship, and that’s going to be our mindset going into this game.”

Ohio State is fourth nationally in scoring average at 46.6 points per game. The Wildcats want to keep that offense off the field by using drives like the 17-play, 64-yard march guided by quarterback Peyton Ramsey in the team’s 28-10 victory over Illinois last week. Cam Porter capped that long drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

“Peyton Ramsey’s given them a shot in the arm,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “They’ve controlled the football, they’re smart and they really don’t turn the ball over. So, when you do that, you’ve got to really be on your game. They’re not going to give you anything.”

Northwestern averages 25.3 points per game to rank 90th of 127 schools. Ramsey has passed for an average of just 174 yards a game passing but the Wildcats have used crew of running backs — Drake Anderson, Isaiah Bowser, and Evan Hulls all have over 200 yards — to rush for just over 170 yards a game.

Defense is what really gets it done for the Wildcats. They have held opponents to just 14.6 points and 313.9 yards a game in total offense. They have allowed just  121.9 yards a game rushing.

“It’s very hard to run the ball on them, and they keep it all in front of them,” Day said. “They force you to work down the field.”

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats  Betting Pick for December 19, 2020

The two teams are meeting for the third time in the last two years with the Buckeyes winning the 2018 Big Ten title game 45-24 and romping 52-3 in the regular season in 2019. They have two common opponents this season with the Buckeyes routing Nebraska 52-17 and Michigan State 52-19. The Wildcats beat the Cornhuskers 21-13 but lost to the Spartans 29-20.

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats  Betting Pick:

Buckeyes 45, Wildcats 17

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats Best Bet for December 19, 2020

Both teams are solid defensively with the Wildcats holding their seven opponents to just 14.6 points a game and the Buckeyes giving up only 23.2 in their five outings. The big difference is on offense where the Wildcats have averaged 25.3 points a game to Ohio State’s 46.6.

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats  Best Bet: OVER 57.5

OddsUSA Top Five Prop Bets For The Big Ten Championship Game

For a brief moment, it looked like the Big Ten Championship was not going to feature the best team in the conference. But conference officials knew that to give Ohio State the best chance possible to make the College Football Playoffs, they had to get the Buckeyes into the title game.

So, they changed the rules.  

While an Indiana-Northwestern game may have been a better contest, Ohio State-Northwestern will produce a true champion. Will it be enough to get Ohio State into the Playoffs? 

Who knows, but they are favored to win by three touchdowns.

It would be the upset of the decade if Northwestern were to pull out a win.

From a betting perspective, you could just pick the winner if you want. But you will have to risk a lot to win a little with the odds weighted so heavily in Ohio State’s favor. However, if you do not like the thought of so much risk for so little reward, there is an alternative—prop bets.

The following are the top five props for Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game:

Spread  – First Half

Northwestern (#14)
+7.5 (+135)
+8.5 (+125)
+9.5 (+115)
+10.0 (+105)
+10.5 (-110)
+12.5 (-140)
+13.0 (-145)
+13.5 (-150)

Ohio State (#4)
-7.5 (-180)
-8.5 (-165)
-9.5 (-155)
-10.0 (-145)
-10.5 (-130)
-12.5 (EVEN)
-13.0 (+105)
-13.5 (+110)

Northwestern has averaged right around 14 points in the first half of every game this season. However, they have yet to play a defense as tough as Ohio State’s, so expecting them to maintain that pace this week may be asking a bit much.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been averaging close to four touchdowns in the first half of every game this season. To be fair, the competition has not been very tough. Northwestern is going to be the most formidable defense they will see this year.

But the Buckeyes know they need to show out if they are going to convince the CFP committee to let them into the Final Four. Ohio State will lead Northwestern by at least two touchdowns at the half.

Best Prop Bet: Ohio State -13.5 (+110)

Winning Margin

Northwestern By 1-6 Points (+1400)
Ohio State By 1-6 Points (+700)

Northwestern By 7-12 Points (+2800)
Ohio State By 7-12 Points (+600)

Northwestern By 13-18 Points (+5000)
Ohio State By 13-18 Points (+425)

Northwestern By 19-24 Points (+8000)
Ohio State By 19-24 Points (+450)

Northwestern By 25-30 Points (+10000)
Ohio State By 25-30 Points (+500)

Northwestern By 31-36 Points (+10000)
Ohio State By 31-36 Points (+600)

Northwestern By 37-42 Points (+12500)
Ohio State By 37-42 Points (+1100)

Northwestern By 43 Or More Points (+12500)
Ohio State By 43 Or More Points (+1100)

Northwestern has a good defense and may be able to slow the Buckeyes down a little. However, since their offense is so bad, their defense may be on the field too much. That means the score could become a blowout in the fourth quarter.

Then again, Ohio State’s defense has been vulnerable against the pass this season. But is Peyton Ramsey good enough to take advantage of them? Probably not.

Ohio State will be going for style points in this one. Look for them to win by at least three touchdowns.

Best Prop Bet: Ohio State by 19-24 (+450) or Ohio State by 25-30 (+500).

First Score Method

Field Goal (+305)
Touchdown (-385)
Any Other (+4000)

Northwestern’s defense is good, but they are not going to deny Ohio State the first time the Buckeyes get within striking distance. The payout may not be great, but the first score in this game will be a touchdown.

Best Prop Bet: Touchdown (-385)

Points Range

Between 0 And 20 (+8000)
Between 21 And 30 (+3300)
Between 31 And 40 (+950)
Between 41 And 50 (+400)
Between 51 And 60 (+220)
Between 61 And 70 (+325)
71 And Over (+425)

Northwestern will probably not match its average scoring output (25.3 points/game) in this game. It is more likely they score in the mid to high teens.  As for Ohio State, with a desire to prove their playoff worthiness, there is a good chance they meet and/or exceed their season average (46.6 points/game).

Best Prop Bet: Between 61 and 70 points (+325)

Race To 40

Ohio State (+115)
Northwestern (+6600)
Neither (-145)

According to the odds, there is a 47.62 percent chance Ohio State scores 40 before Northwestern does. That percentage should be a lot higher. Take Ohio State and do not think twice about it. This one is a no-brainer.

Best Prop Bet: Ohio State first to 40 points (+115)

Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats Betting Preview

Saturday, December 12, 2020, Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois, noon ET

Fighting Illini at Wildcats Betting Preview: Fighting Illini  (+14.5), Wildcats (-14.5)

Fighting Illini

Illinois is hoping to win back the Land of Lincoln Trophy for the first time since 2014 after losing a fifth consecutive game to Northwestern 29-10 last year in Champaign.

“It’s been up north for too long,” Illini coach Lovie Smith said. “Our guys will be pumped up and ready to go. We plan on playing our best game we’ve played all year.”

The Illini (2-4, 2-4 Big 10) are coming off a 35-21 loss to Iowa. Illinois jumped to a 14-point lead behind two touchdown passes from Brandon Peters, but Iowa responded by scoring 35 straight points.

At the end of the game, backup quarterback Isaiah Williams led the Illini to their final touchdown.

Smith said “there’s a place” for Williams in the offense, although he also expressed his belief in Peters. Peters has completed 58.1 percent of his passes but for an average of only 136 yards a game in three outings.

Williams has played four games and completed only 14 of 37 passes or 187 yards 

The loss to Iowa ended the Illini’s winning streak at two games.

“If you look at our play, we have a legitimate chance to win each week,” said Smith, who is in his fifth season with the Illini. “That hasn’t always been the case.”

Wildcats

One year ago, Northwestern entered the Illinois game winless in Big Ten play and at the bottom of the West Division standings. Now, the No. 14 Wildcats (5-1, 5-1 Big 10) already have clinched the West Division and a spot in the Big Ten title game against an opponent to be determined.

The Wildcats clinched last week despite having their game against Minnesota being canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Golden Gophers’ program.

The division title is the second in three years for Northwestern. The Wildcats will become one of four teams in the conference to make the championship game multiple times since its creation in 2011.

“Sometimes Northwestern is portrayed this way or that way, having these type of athletes or those type of athletes,” wide receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman said. “But at the end of the day we’re coming to play, we’re coming to win the West, we’re coming to win a Big Ten championship.”

The hallmark of the Wildcats this season has been their defense. They are sixth in the country in points allowed per game at an average of 15.3. They also have held opponents to 322.5 total yards per game, 15th-best in the country.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said he believes turnover margin also has been a huge determiner of his team’s success. The Wildcats have forced 18 turnovers this season.

“I’ll go back to a lot of our games,” he said. “I think it has a lot to do with turnovers and then points off of turnovers. I think that has been key in most, if not all, of these games.”

The Wildcats have averaged only 327.8 yards a game in total offense with Peyton Ramsey, a graduate transfer from Indiana, passing for 189.3 of that.

Fighting Illini at Wildcats Betting Pick for December 12, 2020

The Illini lead the series 55-53-5 but the Wildcats have won the last five meetings and seven of the last eight. The last meeting in Evanston, however, was a one-score game with the Wildcats escaping with a 24-16 win after the Illini scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Fighting Illini at Wildcats Betting Pick:

Wildcats 21, Fighting Illini 10

Fighting Illini at Wildcats Best Bet for December 12, 2020

Neither team has lit up the scoreboard. The Wildcats haven’t scored more than 21 points in a game since opening with a 43-3 rout of Maryland on Oct. 24 and the Illini have scored more than three touchdown only once, a 41-23 win at Nebraska.

Fighting Illini at Wildcats Best Bet: UNDER 43.5

No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats at Michigan State Spartans Betting Preview

Saturday, November 28, 2020, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET

Wildcats at Spartans Betting Preview: Wildcats (-13.5), Spartans (+13.5)

No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats Betting Preview

No. 8 Northwestern looks to take one step closer to securing a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game when it travels to play Michigan State.

The Wildcats (5-0, 5-0) are coming off a monumental victory over Wisconsin last week. The win propelled Northwestern to the top of the Big Ten West Division and into the College Football Playoff picture.

The Wildcats’ road to this point has not been easy.

They played with a chip on their shoulders after Joey Galloway called the team a bunch of “Rece Davises” on television prior to the game against Wisconsin. Branding themselves the “Fightin’ Rece Davises,” Northwestern outplayed the Badgers, and proceeded to call out Galloway after the game.

“I think our guys ran with it and had a little bit of fun and enjoyed it,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Peyton Ramsey, a graduate transfer from Indiana, has added stability and efficiency at the position after the Wildcats quarterbacks combined to have one of the worst passing attacks in college football last season.

He is completing 62 percent of his passes and has tossed eight touchdowns. While he is not blowing away defenses with his talent, his game-management skills and burgeoning connections with pass catchers have turned the Northwestern offense into an efficient force.

“Our wide receiver corps is at an all-time high right now and it’s also at an all-time high with Peyton,” wide receiver Kyric McGowan said. “We believe that he’s gonna put the ball in the right place and we just gotta trust that we’re gonna get in the right spot.”

Michigan State Spartans Betting Preview

While Northwestern is solidifying itself as a national contender, Michigan State and first-year coach Mel Tucker are looking to return to the heights of a few years back.

The Spartans (1-3, 1-3 Big Ten) notched their only win against Michigan on Halloween. After that win, Michigan State was blown out by Iowa and Indiana and had its game last week against Maryland canceled due to a COVID outbreak in College Park.

The Spartans go into this one unsettled at quarterback. Tucker did not name a starting quarterback this week, saying the competition is still open.

“We have to give our quarterback an opportunity to be successful,” Tucker said.

The battle is mainly between junior Rocky Lombardi and redshirt freshman Payton Thorne. Lombardi has started all four games this season but has struggled. If you take away the victory over Michigan, he has thrown seven interceptions and only three touchdowns.

Lombardi was benched midway through the second quarter against the Hoosiers two weeks ago in favor of Thorne. Thorne finished 10 of 20 passing for 110 yards.

Either one will be faced with a staunch challenge. Northwestern enters with the second-most efficient defense in the country.

Wildcats at Spartans Betting Prediction

The Wildcats are off to their best start overall since 2015 and best in Big Ten play since 1996. They have won three of the last four meetings with the Spartans and three in a row in East Lansing, but lost last year’s meeting 31-10 in Evanston.

Wildcats at Spartans Betting Pick:

Wildcats 24, Spartans 14

Wildcats at Spartans Best Bet

The Wildcats are getting the job done on defense, especially coming up big in the second half. The hold a 47-10 scoring advantage in the second half and have held their opponents scoreless in the second half in four of five games. The Spartans have averaged just 15.2 points a game in their four outings.

Wildcats at Spartans Best Bet: UNDER 42.5

–Field Level Media