The Stanford Cardinal and the Northwestern Wildcats both struggled a lot last season, relative to how they’ve performed in the recent past. Which team has more betting value for your college football picks on Saturday?
Stanford had made BCS bowls the previous four seasons and slipped to a lower level bowl with a record just over .500. Northwestern had made bowl games in previous seasons but failed to make a bowl last year. The Wildcats hope to make an improvement of at least two games, and Stanford hopes to improve to the point that it can win back the Pac-12 title over contenders such as Oregon and USC.
The Stanford Cardinal won their bowl game easily against Maryland, so from one vantage point, they have momentum. They were at risk of missing a bowl game, but they did close the regular season well, beating California and then hammering UCLA on the road to knock the Bruins out of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Then came the bowl blowout of Maryland. The Cardinal’s offensive line finally came together, and quarterback Kevin Hogan played his best football of the year. The team hopes that the one which played in November of 2014 will show up for all of 2015, instead of the team which wobbled through September and October of 2014. The Cardinal struggled in the red zone, failing to score on 15 red zone possessions and settling for a bunch of other field goals. Stanford was great in the previous few seasons because the Cardinal would almost always get that tough yard on third and one inside the 15, or on third and goal at the 1. Last year, that didn’t happen, so the Cardinal know what they have to fix in order to be successful.
Northwestern slipped to a 5-7 record. The Wildcats were dogged by poor quarterback play from Trevor Siemian, who could not push the ball down the field vertically and managed to throw only seven touchdown passes against 11 interceptions. He had a brutal year. Now, Northwestern will turn to Clayton Thorson to be the new signal caller for this team. How Thorson performs will have so much to say about how the Wildcats fare in this game and during the season.
The line is 12 points for Stanford in some places, but it is 11.5 points on the college football odds board at most outlets. It’s not larger because Stanford slipped last year, and people want to see the Cardinal prove that they can knock somebody out. Bettors are also aware that this is an example of a West Coast team playing a game which starts at 9 a.m. Pacific time. The body clock issue is a big deal – we’ve seen it affect Western teams in college and in the NFL before.
Stanford has no injuries or suspensions to speak of heading into this game. The team lifted a suspension to key wide receiver Michael Rector in the weeks leading up to this game.
Northwestern running back Jayme Taylor and offensive lineman Matt Frazier are both out for this game, one with an injury and one with illness.
Handicapping The Game
The body-clock and time-zone issues are real, but Stanford has so much more strength than Northwestern. Also, Kevin Hogan is a veteran quarterback who enters this season wanting to prove a point. Northwestern is a team that’s going to go through some early growing pains. Take the Cardinal with your college football picks.
College Football Pick: Stanford -11.5 at William Hill