Northwestern @ Rutgers.
Northwestern +6 -110 over Rutgers.

Posted at 11:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.

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Northwestern +6 -110 over Rutgers

SHI Stadium - Piscataway, NJ

Streaming: CBS

12:00 PM EST. We return to the birthplace of college football today, as the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers will kick off their season against fellow B1G rival Northwestern. We'll stick with the Wildcats to start here, as they are the ones who made the most noise in the offseason, for better or for worse (hint, it's the latter).

Northwestern finished 1-11 last season after losing its final 11 games of the season. But believe it or not, that was NOT what sent former coach Pat Fitzgerald packing; it was only after a light was shone on the hazing practices of Northwestern Football under his leadership. Fitzgerald was Teflon at his alma mater after having been an All-American linebacker in 1995, which was the same Wildcats' side that won the B1G and went to the Rose Bowl. Credits like that will get you legendary status at a school like Northwestern, and Fitzgerald was no different. However, rather than use the power of his job security for good, Fitzgerald was a monster, as "The hazing included forced participation, nudity, and sexualized acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwestern policies and values," which was what Northwestern President Michael Schill wrote back in July when Fitzgerald was finally fired after 17 years and a 110-101 record.

With Fitzgerald out and only two months until the season, the Wildcats decided to promote newly minted defensive coordinator David Braun, who was a standout defensive coaching prospect at FCS South Dakota State, where he also coached the defense and special teams. Obviously, Braun was to learn from Fitzgerald, but based on what we now know about the culture of bullying at Northwestern, Braun is better served not having had to be a part of that mess. Instead, he gets to clean it up, which long term is going to be better for him and the program.

As for what's taking place on the football field for Northwestern, there is some hope with quarterback Ben Bryant coming in from Cincinnati. About an hour ago, at the time of this writing, Bryant was named the Wildcats' starting pivot for this opener on the road, which is not something he'll be intimidated by after starting 22 career games at both Cincinnati and Eastern Michigan. If you are wondering how long Bryant's leash might be in his new role as the starter considering the heavy reps that Brenden Sullivan received, Braun let it be known that this is no quarterback carousel.

As for the offense Bryant takes over, it's nothing but up from here, as Northwestern posted just 13.8 points per game in 2022. It's hard to remember that the Wildcats were in the damn B1G Championship game in 2020, but they were. But a 4-20 run since has seen their stock drop like a rock. Expectations are low to nil, as Northwestern has been pegged to finish dead last in the West Division in every publication-printed preview of B1G football this season, and the Wildcats are expected to battle with Indiana for the bottom spot of the 14-school B1G.

Greg Schiano must be thanking his lucky stars that everyone is talking about the mess at Northwestern, and nobody is talking about the mess he's got in Piscataway, as the Scarlet Knights were just 4-8 last season after starting the season 3-0. That's not exactly what Rutgers signed up for when they brought Schiano back. You may recall, or not, that Schiano was the coach of the Scarlet Knights from 2001-2011, where he then made a failed jump to the NFL before returning to the college coaching ranks at Ohio State (assistant head coach and defensive coordinator) before returning to the top job at Rutgers in 2020. Since his return to New Jersey, Schiano has struggled to get the program he helped build back on track, as the Knights are just 12-22 since 2020 when they joined the B1G. The best season they've had in Schiano's second stint was a five-win campaign in 2021.

The biggest of many red flags for the Scarlet Knights is that of quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who was named the starter way back before fall camp even started. We know little about Wimsatt because his development has been stunted at every level. Rather than tell you about it, we'll let his head coach break it down, "His career has been nothing but disjointed. He played three high school games (got hurt), (he) got here the first week of the regular season (in 2021 before getting hurt again), (when that happens) he's not learning. It's probably the worst way to learn, in retrospect, because you're learning bits and pieces, but you're not understanding the basis of it."

That is a damn powerful quote from a coach that has been through it all in the last 40+ years, and it resonates. The prudent play is not to spot points here with an unknown pivot in a high-profile home game to start the season. In fact, backing the basement-dwelling Wildcats is where the true value lies, as this is absolutely a game they are capable of winning outright. However, we're content to scoop up the inflated points (this line did open at -4½) and put them in our back pocket just in case we need them. Furthermore, the total in this game is just 39, which suggests a grind-out session that is not conducive to covering a touchdown.


Our Pick

Northwestern +6 -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)