Music City Bowl - Nashville, Tenn.
Kentucky vs. Northwestern
Friday, December 29, 1:30 pm PT - ESPN
CRIS Opener: Northwestern -7 O/U 51
CRIS Current: Northwestern -7.5 O/U 51
There is little to nothing to like about Kentucky's body of work this season. Schedule-wise, the Wildcats played in the watered down SEC East, drew both Mississippi schools from the SEC West, and were unimpressive in non-conference wins over Southern Miss, Eastern Michigan, and Eastern Kentucky. They were outgained (6.26 ypp to 5.56 ypp) and outscored by nearly a field goal per game this season. And to close the year, totally outclassed by Georgia and Louisville by a combined score of 86-20.
Meanwhile, Northwestern rallied from a 2-3 start and finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak. None of the seven victories were "monumental" and it should be noted three came via overtime. The Wildcats were also no doubt the benefactors of a +9 turnover margin during that span. And unlike Kentucky, they closed the year strong by outscoring Minnesota and Illinois 81-7. Whether you're into season-long stats or recent current form, all signs point toward the chalk in this matchup.
But Northwestern's status in the betting markets may be a touch beyond its true capabilities. In recent home games against Minnesota (with a backup QB) and Purdue (which outgained the Wildcats), Northwestern was laying -7 and -6.5 respectively. Here we see them on a neutral field (one that it likely to have far more Kentucky support) laying as high as -7.5. Yes, Kentucky was outclassed by Louisville, Georgia, and Mississippi State but the remainder of the schedule, some of which against teams with better personnel than Northwestern, the Cats either came up victorious or lost by a field goal or less. So while the stats and power ratings show Northwestern to be "superior" I'm far more comfortable with the Cats having an "edge." Lean here to the underdog at over a touchdown.