No. 19 Northwestern plays host to No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday in a contest that could determine the eventual Big Ten West champion. The Wildcats enter the contest at 4-0, with three of those four wins coming against division rivals Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue. Meanwhile, Wisconsin returned to action last week after having to cancel two games due to a coronavirus outbreak within the program.
The Badgers looked no worse for wear against Michigan, crushing the Wolverines 49-11 to improve to 2-0. Now, with the season quickly dwindling, these two are the only unbeaten teams remaining in the West, and of course, only one will still be able to say that come Saturday night.
Which team will it be? Historically, Wisconsin has dominated the series, as it holds a 60-36-5 edge over the Wildcats. That record is deceiving, though, as most of those wins came before the 1990s. If we use the measuring stick of when Barry Alvarez took over at Wisconsin in 1990 and began the Badgers renaissance, Wisconsin has won 13 of the 24 meetings. Since Pat Fitzgerald took over at Northwestern, Wisconsin has won six of 10, including a 24-15 Wisconsin win in Madison last year.
Northwestern: When we first saw Northwestern this season, it was a revelation. After having one of the worst offenses in the country in 2019, the Wildcats put up 43 points in their opener against Maryland. They averaged 3.91 points per possession in that game. Things have slowed down since as Northwestern has scored 69 points in three games since and averaged only 1.77 points per possession. What hasn't changed is a Northwestern defense that hasn't been easy on anybody. The Wildcats defense is allowing only 1.14 points per drive this season, ranking seventh nationally.
Wisconsin: The Badgers is hoping that their COVID-19 problems are behind them, and they can focus on playing football from now on. It's hard to blame them because the offense has looked unstoppable through two games with Graham Mertz at QB, and the defense has been impenetrable. While it's only been two games, the Badgers defense has allowed only 0.48 points per possession this season. That's the best mark in the country by a wide margin. On the other side of the ball, the 4.09 points per possession the Badgers score on offense ranks third nationally. Again, it's only been two games, but the Badgers have been one of the most dominant teams in the nation.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 21 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Ryan Field -- Evanston, Illinois
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Wisconsin vs. Northwestern prediction, picks
I don't have an excellent feel for either side of this line. On the one hand, I hate going against Northwestern as an underdog because it performs its best in these situations under Pat Fitzgerald. On the other hand, Wisconsin has looked unstoppable. While Northwestern's defense will be the toughest one the Badgers have faced this year, I'm concerned about Northwestern's waning offense. I don't know how many points this unit will manage against one of the country's top defenses. So, while I think playing the under is the smartest play if looking for a side of the spread, I'd go with Wisconsin before Northwestern. But, again, I don't love it. If you can find it under a touchdown, it becomes a lot more appealing. Pick: Wisconsin (-7)
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