A pair of Big Ten teams heading in opposite directions meet this week as the Northwestern Wildcats pay a visit to the Indiana Hoosiers. Game time is at 7:00 EST on Saturday, November 2 at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. Fans can watch the game on FS1.
According to our Week 10 college football odds, the Hoosiers are 12.5-point favorites at home. The game also has an over/under of 45.5 points.
It’s not even November and yet the Indiana Hoosiers have already qualified for a bowl game. Last week’s road win over Nebraska was Indiana’s third in a row and sixth of the season, sending the Hoosiers to their first bowl game since 2016. For what it’s worth, the Hoosiers have been able to beat up on some bad teams, knocking off the likes of Rutgers, UConn, and Ball State to reach six wins. However, given the difficult schedule teams like Indiana face in the Big Ten East, winning six games is an impressive accomplishment. Speaking of that difficult schedule, the Hoosiers still have to play Penn State and Michigan the final month of the season, so they’ll be looking to build up as much momentum and confidence as possible ahead of those games.
Northwestern, on the other hand, looks like they’ll be staying home this bowl season. A 20-0 loss to Iowa last week was the fifth in the row for the Wildcats. One year winning the Big Ten West and playing in the conference title game, Northwestern is probably the worst team in the division. For what it’s worth, three of those five losses have come against ranked teams. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Wildcats are 1-6 and will need to win all five of their remaining games to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2014. It’s not impossible with three of Northwestern’s final five games coming at home. But the Wildcats have no margin for error.
On the bright side, the Wildcats are riding a five-game winning streak over Indiana. Of course, the teams haven’t met since 2016, so they’re not exactly familiar with one another. Nevertheless, the Hoosiers will be seeking their first win over Northwestern since 2008.
I know it looks bleak for Northwestern, but I don’t think Pat Fitzgerald’s team is going to go down without a fight. Remember, most of their losses have come against teams far better than Indiana. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers have won half of their games by 10 points or less, so they’re not exactly blowing teams out on a regular basis. This spread feels a little high for me and I think the Wildcats will put up a fight and at least beat the 12.5-point spread.
Despite being 1-6, the Wildcats have one of the better defenses in the Big Ten. Admittedly, that wasn’t evident a few weeks ago when Ohio State scored 52 points against them. But teams like Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa have all had subpar offensive performance against the Wildcats. The Northwestern defense is physical at the line of scrimmage and able to slow down the opposing team’s running game, which is what allows them to hold most teams to a reasonable point total.
To be fair, the Indiana offense has been far better than expected this season. Stevie Scott has given them a steady rushing attack while both Michael Penix Jr. and Peyton Ramsey have been productive quarterbacks. Penix was the preferred quarterback at the start of the year but has battled multiple injuries. However, Ramsey, who has a wealth of starting experience, has been far better than a typical backup. That being said, neither is an elite quarterback, so while they can take advantage of lackluster defenses, I’m not sure if either will light up the scoreboard against the Northwestern defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Indiana defense remains a work in progress. The Hoosiers have dominated the likes of Rutgers and UConn, but in their five games against halfway decent opponents, they’re allowing close to 35 points per game. Even a 3-5 Maryland team managed to score 28 points against the Hoosiers while playing a backup quarterback. The Hoosiers also allowed Nebraska’s backup quarterbacks to put 31 points on the board last week. Covering a double-digit spread usually requires plenty of defensive stops, and I’m not confident that the Indiana defense can do its part in giving the Hoosiers a comfortable win.
Admittedly, the Northwestern offense might be the worst offense in the Big Ten. The Wildcats haven’t scored more than 15 points in a game against a power-conference team this season. They also got shut out last week and are relying on a quarterback in Aidan Smith who was third on the depth chart at the start of the season. But the Wildcats have some capable running backs who can move the ball and perhaps shorten the game by eating away at the clock.
In the end, I’m still a big enough fan of the Northwestern defense against a double-digit spread. The Hoosiers are good, but they’re not exactly an offensive juggernaut. I also don’t see the Indiana defense keeping a shut out, even against a bad Northwestern offense. There’s enough uncertainty here to make me lean toward the Wildcats beating the spread.