College Football Picks: Northwestern vs. California in Week 1

Jeff Grant

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 8:59 PM GMT

Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013 8:59 PM GMT

The Northwestern Wildcats covered the number in 12 of their 13 games in 2012, as they prepare to open up a new season against the California Golden Bears in the Bay Area.

Let’s take a closer look at the college football odds for this Week 1 matchup at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 31, with the opening kickoff scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. 

Quite a year 

Northwestern was 10-3 straight up (SU) and 12-1 against the spread (ATS) a season ago, as it managed to win its first bowl game since 1949, while the UNDER went 7-5 in 12 opportunities. 

The Wildcats outscored opponents by a 412-293 margin in 13 games, but they didn’t have to play both Ohio State and Wisconsin—two Big Ten Conference powers that they’ll match up with in 2013. 

Rebuilding mode 

California is likely in a rebuilding year, as it finished with a 3-9 SUATS record a season ago, which led to the dismissal of longtime head coach Jeff Tedford and the hiring of former Louisiana Tech front man Sonny Dykes. 

The Golden Bears are expected to welcome back 11 total starters—five on offense and six on defense.

Season-opening success 

College football handicappers may find it hard to lay this type of number with the Wildcats when looking over the betting odds, but they’ve won their last eight season openers by an average of 17 points. 

It’s important to note that Northwestern has compiled a mediocre 8-8-1 ATS record as road favorites over the last 10 years. 

Comes down to defense

I’m not interested in picking sides in this contest at this point in time, but I do think California has an opportunity to slow down Northwestern, with defensive coordinator Andy Buh having previous experience against Big Ten foes.

Buh spent the 2012 season as the linebackers coach at Wisconsin, while also serving in that role and being the coordinator at Nevada from 2010-11. 

Prediction 

I’m going to recommend that readers take a look at playing the UNDER with their college football picks in this contest when a number is established in the market, as the Wildcats may struggle offensively in playing a late night game on the West Coast, while the Golden Bears have some playmakers on defense. 

Week 1 College Football Pick:  Under 

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