2013 Northwestern Wildcats Football Preview
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
2012 record: 10-3, 5-3 Big Ten Conference
2012 Bowl Result: 34-20 win over Mississippi St in Gator Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 15 total (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
Odds to Win 2014 BCS Championship: +17500
Odds to Win 2013 Big Ten Legends Division: +325
Regular Season Wins: Under 8.5 -230, Over 8.5 +170
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Northwestern returns 100 percent of its passing production, 95.6 percent of its rushing yardage and 84.2 percent of its receiving production.
The Wildcats welcome back all three of their main contributors under center, with Kain Coulter expected to be the main option, as he ran for 894 yards and passed for another 872.
Mark is a dynamic playmaker in the backfield—coming off a 1,416-yard campaign—averaging 6.0 yards per carry and scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground.
The unit ranked third in the conference in allowing just 127.6 yards per game on the ground, while holding opponents to 20 points or less in 8 of 13 games.
This year’s squad returns six of its top eight defensive linemen, which will help in continuing to stop opposing rushing attacks. It’s important to point out that he group will need to replace a pair of players that made 26 combined starts.
The Wildcats allowed just 22.5 points per game in 2012—the lowest such figure since 2008.
A linebacker core that returns two of its top three tacklers will help to keep Big Ten offenses in check this season.
Fitzgerald can rest each knowing that he returns all of his primary specialists, including 2012 Big Ten Co-Kicker of the Year in Jeff Budzien.
Punter Brandon Williams and holder Pat Hickey return for their fourth and third years respectively, while All-American Venric Mark looks to add to his reputation as one of the nation’s most dangerous returnmen.
Against the Spread
Over the last four seasons, the program has tallied a 25-23 ATS record, which includes a 12-5 ATS mark when dressing up as a road underdog.
College football handicappers will be interested in backing the Wildcats against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Nov. 30, as they’ve covered 10 of the last 13 overall meetings.
Northwestern will likely be a home underdog when matching up with the Ohio State Buckeyes in its first game in October, which could prove troublesome due to its 0-4 ATS record in the last four games in the series.