Northwestern is an underdog at home against Wisconsin this Saturday, and many of the Inside NU staffers are taking the Badgers. That doesn’t mean that some are rolling with the home team in a possibly do-or-die affair. Here’s what the staff projects for today’s outcome.
Sarah Effress: Northwestern 14, Wisconsin 10
Defensive slugfest. That, and also I think this is the last time I will pick Northwestern to win all season if they don’t come out victorious today. Unless Jim Leonhard magically turns Wisconsin back into its AP Poll self in less than a week, I believe the ‘Cats can legitimately compete, especially given the Badgers’ shoddy track record at Ryan Field. I have nothing to lose at this point, so...Wildcat nation, let’s ride.
Bradley Locker: Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 16
This season, amid its chaos, has reinforced that history does tend to repeat itself. Northwestern bounced back against Nebraska, as it usually does in its rivalry, and continued its struggles against Duke. The Badgers haven’t won in Evanston since 2016, and no team has taken two or more in a row in this series since 2016-17. Pat Fitzgerald felt amped in his presser this week, understanding what’s at stake in the Big Ten West and with Homecoming (and the reunion of the 2012 team) on the horizon. If Northwestern can at least contain Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, expect mistakes from Graham Mertz that a reeling Wisconsin team can’t overcome. The mojo of a new head coach is real, but the Badgers just aren’t as sound as anticipated — that, and the firing of Paul Chryst not sitting well with players like Allen, evokes memories to NU’s low-scoring Hoco win over Rutgers last year.
Iggy Dowling: Wisconsin 23, Northwestern 17
As ugly as the Penn State game was, it gave me some hope that Northwestern can at least keep this close. The classic “give the ball to Braelon Allen and get out of the way” formula should win this game by itself if Graham Mertz can get out of his own way, but it won’t keep the ‘Cats from covering yet again. That’s all NU will get though; any chance of this being a trap game for the Badgers flew faster out the window on Sunday than Desmond Howard’s preseason playoff bracket.
Gavin Dorsey: Wisconsin 20, Northwestern 10
With neither team really trusting their quarterbacks, I expect this to be a game dominated by Braelon Allen and Evan Hull. Wisconsin may have just fired their coach, but I still believe the Badgers will come out swinging and absolutely gash the Wildcats on the ground.
Ben Chasen: Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 17
Talk to your doctor about Watching Northwestern Versus Wisconsin™. Side effects include loss of appetite, eye pain and existential dread. Do not Watch Northwestern Versus Wisconsin™ with your children or anyone else who may be impressionable and easily disturbed.
John Olsen: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern i
i is the mathematical symbol for the square root of -1, which can’t be defined in the world of real numbers, so i is referred to as an imaginary number. Practically, i has no value and is equal to zero, but if you want to live in an alternate reality where i references something tangible, go to the land of imaginary numbers. There, you can imagine that Wisconsin having an interim head coach gives this team a better chance of winning the game, or the ‘Cats’ recent history at home against the Badgers or during homecoming weekend makes it more likely they will prevail. You can even imagine that this offense can actually put points on the board against one of the best defenses in the country, or that this defense will be able to slow down the 6-foot-2, 235-pound freight train that is Braelon Allen. And — this might be the best idea of the three — you can imagine that this football team doesn’t exist, and do something else with your three hours and change on Saturday, instead of subjecting yourself to the misery it will almost certainly bring you.
I don’t really do analysis on these picks anymore, but it seems necessary this week given the amount of, in my opinion, unwarranted optimism toward this matchup from the Northwestern faithful. People, this is a 1-4 team that has looked downright abysmal in its four losses, which really should’ve been five if Scott Frost didn’t let Nathaniel Hackett take his controller after the Huskers went up 28-17 in Dublin. And if the eye test isn’t enough, every metric out there says this isn’t a good football team by Division 1, Football Bowl Subdivision standards. Besides trends that are nothing more than coincidental patterns being identified as reasons to justify forecasting a Northwestern win, there isn’t a shroud of actual evidence in existence to support that notion. Nothing infuriates me more than baseless claims (and continually calling HB Power in Wildcat when it hasn’t been working), so when they don’t hold, don’t act like no one could’ve seen it coming because I did.
Sam Richardson: Wisconsin 14, Northwestern 7.
This game will be more a product of non-existent offensive production than defensive proficiency. Before the season, I, and many others, had hope that Graham Mertz and the Wisconsin offense could turn it around. But alas, Mertz has put together a disastrous season, and after losing to Illinois and firing Paul Chryst, the program seems to be in free fall. But former DC Jim Leonhard is a sound leader, and Wisconsin’s defense quite simply is too good to be playing this poorly. This coming week, expect the Wisconsin D to pull it together against a putrid Northwestern offense. And as long as Mertz and Allen can manage a couple of touchdowns, the win should be safely in the bag for the Badgers.
Brendan Preisman: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 13
Northwestern’s defense forced five turnovers against a team ranked in the AP top 10. Northwestern’s offense turned those into nine total yards. The offense is broken, and as long as Wisconsin doesn't shoot themselves in the foot every single drive, the Badgers should get back on track and spoil homecoming for the Wildcats.
Jason Boué: Wisconsin 15, Northwestern 9
This game could have 6 or 600 combined rushing yards between the two squads. The former is far more likely. Hammer the under.
Sophia Vlahakis: Northwestern 17, Wisconsin 10
I am not very confident in Northwestern’s ability to win games, but beating Wisconsin for Homecoming is not entirely improbable. With Northwestern, who really knows what to expect? The ‘Cats lose when we think they will win (Duke, SIU, Miami Ohio), and when we think they will get absolutely crushed, they keep it surprisingly close (Penn State). Northwestern has to win at home at least once this season. Scratch that: Northwestern has to win in this country at least once this season. Right?
Zain Bando: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 13
I’m not sure what to make of the Big Ten West at the moment. Somehow, Nebraska fires Scott Frost prior to losing to Oklahoma, and in a matter of two weeks, is leading the division. Illinois continues to use the ground and pound to win games. Iowa can’t score points, and the Wisconsin Badgers look left for dead. To the surprise of everyone, including myself, Northwestern gave Penn State all it could handle a week ago but couldn’t finish drives to pull off the upset. Is this a sign of things to come? Absolutely not.
Northwestern is still Northwestern, and with that comes pain and agony every Saturday. A win on Homecoming could save the season, but a loss would effectively end all hope for a bowl berth given the games remaining.
Although Wisconsin is in a transition period with Jim Leonard at the controls, expect the Badgers to do all it can to contain the run and control the clock. It’s hard to see the Wildcats lead in this game, and if it does happen, it will be brief. A fifth loss in six weeks? Yikes.
P.S. Good teams win, great teams cover. If you took Northwestern last weekend, congratulations. Please bet responsibly.
4-1: John Olsen
3-2: Jake Mozarsky
2-3: Bradley Locker, Gavin Dorsey, Ben Chasen, Sam Richardson, Sophia Vlahakis, Brendan Preisman
1-4: Sarah Effress, Iggy Dowling, Zain Bando
2-2: Jason Boué
1-3: Mac Stone
0-3: John Ferrara
1-1: Emma Manley, Myles Gilbert
0-2: Justin Dunbar, Dan Olinger, Andrew Katz
0-1: Didi Jin