The Northwestern Wildcats open their season at home, but they’ll have to get past the wall that is the No. 21 Stanford Cardinal. The Wildcats had some surprises up their sleeves last season, made evident with their road upset of Penn State. Can they send their visitors away disappointed in the season opener? Read on for a breakdown of this thrilling college football clash.
Get some more college football action. Check out the complete previews for Akron vs. Oklahoma and Virginia vs. UCLA.[sc:NCAAFArticles ]
Stanford Cardinal vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
When: Saturday, September 5, 12:00 PM ET
TV: ESPN/ Watch ESPN
Line: Stanford Cardinal (-12) at Northwestern Wildcats (+12) – view all NCAA Football lines
Betting on the Stanford Cardinal
It’s going to take a whole lot to get past the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense (second, 16.4 points per game), rushing defense (seventh, 104.5 yards per game), passing defense (eighth, 177.9 yards per game) and total defense (third, 282.4 yards per game) last season.
[sc:NCAA240banner ]Stanford has its trusty linebackers to thank for its dominant defense. Pass rushers Kevin Anderson and Peter Kalambayi were splendid last season, combining for 12 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Blake Martinez was also excellent in plugging in the rushing holes with a team-high 102 tackles last year.
The Cardinal should also improve on offense this upcoming season. Stanford’s hopes lie in the maturity of quarterback Kevin Hogan, who’ll be in his third year as a starter. Hogan put up solid numbers last season completing 65.9 percent of his passes for 2,792 yards and 18 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He was at his best in the final three games of the season, completing 76 percent of his throws and leading the Cardinal to the Foster Farms Bowl win.
Hogan will have some big-time targets back for this season in wide receiver Devon Cajuste and tight end Austin Hooper. Cajuste led the team with six receiving scores last season and was second on the team with 557 yards receiving. Hooper was a step behind with 499 yards and two touchdowns.
Stanford is 4-2-1 against the spread in their last seven games as double digit favorites.
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Betting on the Northwestern Wildcats
Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian is now gone. But he won’t be missed too much considering he wasn’t a solid signal caller for the Northwestern Wildcats in the first place. Siemian threw just seven touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions in his senior year.
The Wildcats may start redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson under center this season. A dual threat four-star prospect, Thorson can do it all for the Wildcats. He’ll already have a key target in rookie wide receiver Flynn Nagel, who may make an immediate impact for the team.
Helping ease the pressure of Thorson is a solid running back in Justin Jackson. The sophomore tailback ran for 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns on 245 carries last season. He had 296 yards rushing and three touchdowns combined in his last two road games of 2014. Expect Jackson to shoulder most of the offensive load against Stanford.
Northwestern will need its offense to be firing on all cylinders to mask its faulty defense. The Wildcats’ pass rush was disappointing last season, recording just 17 total sacks the entire year. Having Stanford’s quarterback feel comfortable in the pocket could see the Wildcats’ secondary under heavy fire all afternoon.
The Wildcats are 2-8 SU/ATS in their last 10 at home.
The Cardinal (-12) blowout Northwestern.[sc:NCAA490banner ]
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