California vs. Northwestern NCAA Football Odds & Picks

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 3:26 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 3:26 PM UTC

Two teams coming off massively disappointing 2013 seasons face off in the season opener when Pac-12 school Cal travels to Big Ten club Northwestern on Saturday.

The Wildcats are 11-point favorites on college football odds with a total set at 60.5, and these can be found at 5Dimes.

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Last Meeting
These two opened last season against one another in Berkeley and the then-No. 22 Wildcats won a 44-30 shootout on the way to starting 4-0. Northwestern lost quarterback Kain Colter on just the second play from scrimmage, but Trevor Siemian filled in solidly, completing 18 of 29 passes for a touchdown and two interceptions. Treyvon Green rushed 15 times for 129 yards and two scores, and Dan Vitale caught five passes for 101 yards. But the real star was linebacker Collin Ellis, who returned two touchdowns for interceptions. For Cal, Jared Goff became the first true freshman to start a season opener for Cal and was 38 for 63 for 445 yards (second-most yards in school history), two touchdowns and three interceptions. Receivers Chris Harper (11 catches, 148 yards and two TDs) and Bryce Treggs (11 catches, 145 yards) both had big days as well. The teams combined for 1,057 yards of offense.


Season Outlooks
Frankly, not much is expected of Cal. The Bears, under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, finished 1-11 in 2013 and that only win was against lower-tier school Portland State. The defense was by far the worst in school history, allowing 45.9 points per game, 125th in the nation. Even Portland State put up 30. That was the fewest Cal gave up all year. Ohio State and Oregon put up 52 and 55, respectively, on that unit, while USC and Stanford each rung up at least 60. Each FBS foe gained at least 448 yards of offense. The team has a new defensive coordinator in Andy Kaufman, formerly of North Carolina. He's the school's third in the past three years.

The Bears have now lost 16 in a row to FBS competition and 14 in a row to Pac-12 foes. It's probably the worst Power 5 conference team out there. Somewhere Aaron Rodgers is grimacing. On the bright side, Goff, Harper and Treggs are back so this should be one of the nation's top passing attacks again.  Receiver is easily the deepest position on the roster. California has a wins total of 2.5 at Bovada, with the over a -160 favorite. The Bears might be favored twice: Sept. 6 vs. Sacramento State (for sure that one) and Sept. 27 against Colorado (maybe not).

Northwestern's 2013 season started with so much promise, with many thinking it was a Big Ten contender. As noted above, the Wildcats rolled through their non-conference schedule 4-0 to set up a huge Big Ten opener at home against No. 4 Ohio State, one of the biggest games in school history. NU played very well but lost 40-30 and the wheels fell off. The Wildcats wouldn't win again until the season finale, a squeaker at terrible Illinois.

Things were looking up this season with some key guys back, but two suddenly two on offense were lost last week: Running back and former All-American return man Venric Mark (a star in 2012 but barely played last year and eventually redshirted due to injury) transferred and leading receiver Christian Jones 54 catches, 668 yards, four TDs) was lost to a season-ending injury. But Siemian returns at quarterback as does leading rusher Green (736 yards, eight TDs) and No. 2 receiver Tony Jones (55 catches, 630 yards, four TDs). Former Rutgers transfer Miles Shuler also is eligible and he's a burner. He could make a difference on kick on punt returns at a minimum and probably will play plenty at receiver. The defense took a hit this week with the loss of projected starting defensive tackle Sean McEvilly.

Northwestern has a wins total of 7.5 at Bovada, with the under a -150 betting favorite.

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NCAA football free picks
Northwestern -11 and the 'over' 60.5 points on NCAA football odds. The Wildcats are 8-0 under Coach Pat Fitzgerald in season openers. Both defenses look rather porous again so this could surpass 60.5 points early in the third quarter (keep an eye on rain, however. That could change things. Right now 60 percent chance of rain). The Wildcats were better than last year's record as they lost several games in the fourth quarter -- they led nine of 12 games at one point. Cal was as bad as its record. Northwestern wins by two touchdowns again.

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