Opening Week: If Thorson Is Healthy, Back Northwestern Over Purdue

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 1:55 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2018 1:55 PM UTC

The Big Ten schedule again gets a Week 1 start this season as Northwestern visits Purdue on Aug. 30 in an ESPN nationally-televised matchup.

Northwestern (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS in 2017) at Purdue (7-6 SU, 9-4 ATS)Thursday, Aug. 30, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)Free NCAAF Pick: NorthwesternBest Line Offered: JustBet

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A fairly new thing in the Big Ten is the conference playing one game on the opening weekend to grab a little bit of the spotlight. This year, that matchup is Northwestern, which could easily win the Big Ten’s West Division, at Purdue. It was originally set to be played on Sept. 1, but ESPN gets what ESPN wants.

This game will take place a whopping 27 days before fall classes begin at Northwestern, but the benefit is that it gives NU extra time before hosting Duke on Sept. 8. It’s the first Thursday game for the Wildcats since 2006 when they opened at Miami of Ohio. That Northwestern won that game 21-3 is not very noteworthy. That it was the first game as Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald is. He has become the school’s all-time winningest coach and one of the most respected in the nation. This writer still believes a bigger school or NFL team will eventually lure him away from Evanston.

How’s this for a statistic: Purdue last opened a season on a Thursday in ’95 – that’s 1895! The Boilers won that game 6-0 in a forfeit over Iowa State. Perhaps the Cyclones’ horse-driven carriage was stuck in the mud. It’s Purdue’s first Thursday game since the 2004 Capital One Bowl. It’s also the Boilers’ first Big Ten game to kick off a season since 1996 at Michigan State.

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Thorson Working Way Back

Northwestern has the longest active winning streak in the Big Ten, closing last season on an eight-game run to finish 10-3. However, in the 24-23 Music City Bowl win over Kentucky, star quarterback Clayton Thorson – a potential first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft – tore his ACL. So, it’s a race against time for Thorson to be ready for Week 1. He expects to be. Thorson has started 39 consecutive games and is the program’s all-time winningest QB. He ranked third in the Big Ten in passing yards per game last year and also rushed for eight scores.

The Cats return 14 starters, seven on each side of the ball. The biggest loss was running back Justin Jackson, who holds just about every school rushing record possible and joined former Heisman winner Ron Dayne of Wisconsin as the only players in Big Ten history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in four-straight seasons. NU is given a win total of 6 at 5Dimes, with the over a -155 favorite.

Purdue is on the rise under second-year coach Jeff Brohm and his high-powered offense. The Boilers won seven games last year, their most since 2011, and beat Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl. Tennessee was hot after Brohm this offseason. He brings back 13 starters, nine on offense. Both quarterbacks return in Elijah Sindelar and David Blough.

Brohm is letting things play out before naming a starter as both return from injuries. Sindelar played the last 3½ games last year with a torn ACL in his left knee but was magnificent in the bowl victory. Blough suffered a season-ending right ankle dislocation in early November. The Boilers also have a win total of 6 at 5Dimes, with the ‘over’ a -130 favorite.

Last year, Northwestern was a 6.5-point home favorite on the college football odds against visiting Purdue and won 23-13 – that would be the Boilers’ last loss. Thorson threw for a score and rushed for one. Sindelar put it up a whopping 60 times, completing 37 for 376 yards, two scores and a pick.

  • Road team is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings.
  • Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Purdue.
  • Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games.

Northwestern has won four straight in the series and covered three of those. If Thorson is ready, both streaks continue. Take the Cats for an NCAAF pick, although perhaps buy a half-point to get it to 3.5.

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