Northwestern at Indiana
Time: 6 PM CST
Spread: IND -11.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Northwestern is just 1-6 this season and has not won since its Week 2 victory over UNLV. The Wildcats travel to Indiana to face an improved Hoosier team that is 11.5-point favorites in the meeting. The game will air at 6 PM CST on the Big Ten Network and has an over/under set at 43.5 points according to college football oddsmakers at 5dimes.
Northwestern has not even been in the last two games it lost. Falling 0-20 to Iowa last week was preceded by a 3-52 loss to Ohio State the week prior. Three weeks ago it came within a field goal of Nebraska but still has lost all of its Big Ten games this season. Even Indiana, a usual pushover, is anything but for the Wildcats right now, evidenced by Northwestern’s double-digit underdog status in Saturday’s meeting.
Northwestern is doing nothing particularly well in this dreadful season. The Wildcats rank No. 125 in pass offense and No. 93 in rush offense, generating just 12.5 points per game while surrendering nearly double that (24.4). Northwestern has very few bright spots in its roster this season. None of its three quarterbacks have fared well, with Aidan Smith and Hunter Johnson both averaging 48 percent or worse on completions, and each having more interceptions than touchdowns (6 INTs/1 TD for Smith; 4 INT/1 TD for Johnson).
Lead running back Drake Anderson has been the closest thing to success for Northwestern. He averages 4.7 yards-per-carry on his 92 attempts for 436 yards and three touchdowns. Smith and Johnson have both rushed for TDs from the QB position, while the lone remaining touchdown came from No. 4 running back John Moten IV. Jesse Brown has had success in his limited (11) carries, tallying 7.7 yards-per-attempt, and even rushing for a team-best 35-yards in one attempt.
The wealth at wide receiver has been spread between four players, with all having at least 100 yards on the season, but only JJ Jefferson has scored a touchdown, and he has both of Northwestern’s receiving touchdowns.
Kicker Charlie Kuhbander is 7 of 9 on field goals, with both of his misses coming from within 40 yards. He has hit a long of 44-yards and he has knocked in all six of his PATs. The defense has been anchored by the strong play of Travis Whitlock, Blake Gallagher, Paddy Fisher, and Chris Bergin. That quartet all has 51 tackles or more to its individual credit, though Northwestern is not superb defensively in giving up over 24 points per game.
Indiana has made the biggest turnaround of any Big Ten team this season in faring 6-2 thus far. Both of its losses came to AP Ranked opponents (Michigan State and Ohio State), and the Hoosiers have won three straight with a win last week over Nebraska, Maryland two weeks ago, and a 35-0 shutout victory over Rutgers three weeks ago. Indiana has won its past two on the road, but it returns home this week to host Northwestern as a heavy favorite, which is a unique position for the Hoosiers to be in, generally speaking.
Indiana ranks No. 11 in the nation in passing yardage with 312.8 per game. It is just No. 97 in rushing yardage (137.8), but that effort is enough to add some balance and keep defenses on its toes, as Indiana averages 34.0 points per game, good for No. 35 overall. Most impressively perhaps, Indiana has really upped its game defensively and allows just 22.1 points per game this season, giving it a win differential of +11.9 points.
Michael Penix Jr has thrown for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns this season with a Quarterback rating of 82.4. The top rusher has been Stevie Scott III, whose 621 yards and seven touchdowns both lead IU. Whop Philyor is the leading receiver with 737 yards on 57 catches with three TDs to his credit.
Payton Ramsey took over at QB for Penix this season and he has done quite well. Ramsey has thrown for 66 percent completions against Big Ten opponents with 721 yards in the five conference games so far.
He will be good enough to keep Indiana clicking without Penix, a more than adequate replacement as the Hoosiers gear up for a rare, but hopefully for its sake, more common, a Bowl appearance in 2019.