By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
Finally, college football is back.
The season kicks off Saturday in Dublin, Ireland, with the Nebraska Cornhuskers taking on the Northwestern Wildcats at Aviva Stadium on FOX. Nebraska opened as a 10-point favorite at most sportsbooks, and FOX Bet is currently dealing The Corn -12 with a total of O/U 50.5.
It’s easy to look at last season’s meeting [56-7 Nebraska] and think the Huskers will steamroll the Purple Cats again. “Not so fast,” as Lee Corso would say.
Northwestern’s defense was uncharacteristically soft in the trenches, but head coach Pat Fitzgerald shored that up by adding three transfers upfront. Four seniors will start on the defensive line, making last year’s out-manned and overmatched unit a thing of the past.
On offense, Northwestern returns 1,000-yard rusher Evan Hull and Cam Porter, who led the Cats on the ground two years ago. Porter missed last season with a knee injury, but reports from Evanston sound great. You’ll see a steady diet of both backs on Saturday.
The Cats will aim to run the rock and control the clock behind an offensive line that brings back four starters, including All-Big Ten left tackle Peter Skoronski. If NU gets its running game going early, they’ll be in it all game long.
Laying almost two touchdowns with a Nebraska team that’ll be working through the growing pains of a new offense with a new coordinator and new quarterback is not my cup of tea. And Huskers’ head Scott Frost has not made you money in this role with a 9-15 ATS record when laying points.
Frost has been a colossal disaster (15-29 over four years), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being his last rodeo in Lincoln. The boosters are absolutely fed up, and there are growing concerns about his ability to lead the program.
You also must understand that Nebraska is perennially overrated and Northwestern is perennially underrated, which makes this point spread larger than it should be. And don’t think for one second that the Cats haven’t had this game circled on the calendar since the Huskers ran up the score.
Eight of the last 11 meetings between these two teams have been decided by one score and I expect much of the same across the pond.
I’m taking the points in the first half and full game.
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
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