Optimism isn’t necessarily at all-time high among the Wisconsin fanbase, but the Badgers do sit at 5-2 and with a chance to win the Big Ten West.
Up next, though, is a game at Northwestern, a place where the Badgers have had mixed results over the years, against a Wildcats team which currently resides in first place in the division.
Even with (or some might say because of) quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s status up in the air for Saturday’s game, Wisconsin is a favorite to win on the road and other than some who cover Northwestern, the Badgers are the pick du jour for prognosticators around the web.
We should note that some of the predictions were made before the Hornibrook news came out; all the Twitter responses are after, however.
That being said, here’s this week’s predictions from around the web and Twitter:
The Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 17 (and also labels it his “best bet”).
Pete Fiutak of Collegefootballnews.com: Wisconsin 26, Northwestern 17. “There might be a mystical thing happening at times with the Wildcats in Evanston, and they might be on a winning streak, but they’re about to get hammered by the Badger offensive front. The biggest shocker, though, will be Hornibrook. He’ll pick apart the Northwestern secondary on key third down plays, Jonathan Taylor will hit 100 yards again, and Thorson won’t be able to rally back late.”
Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 24.
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic ($): Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 20. “It’s been a disappointing season given the Badgers’ lofty preseason expectations, but they still control their fate in the Big Ten West. That starts with beating the current first-place team. Northwestern has managed to start 4-1 despite little-to-no rushing offense and requiring late rallies to survive 1-6 Nebraska and 1-7 Rutgers. This one might not end as positively.”
Bill Bender of The Sporting News: Wisconsin 34, Northwestern 24.
Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 17. “Just a question: Generally speaking, are the Wildcats better off on the road than they are at home? Because it often seems Ryan Field — whose stands will be painted with enormous swaths of red — does them no favors.”
Gabe Salgado of Athlon Sports: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 17. “Wisconsin has won three of the last five meetings with Northwestern by a combined score of 110-70. Northwestern also is struggling at home this year with a record of 1-3 and has been outscored 111-92 in games at Ryan Field. In their wins, the Badgers are averaging close to 40 points per game, and the reality is that Northwestern’s defense doesn’t compare to the two teams that beat Wisconsin — Michigan and BYU. Factor in the Wildcats’ defensive struggles, the issues on offense, and the fact that last week’s win over Rutgers didn’t inspire too much confidence, and it appears that Wisconsin is poised to leave Evanston with no worse than a share of first place in the Big Ten West.”
Athon Sports’ Mitch Light: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 20.
Jesse Temple of The Athletic ($): Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 21. “Northwestern has won three consecutive Big Ten games, but the last two have required comebacks against Nebraska and Rutgers teams that are a combined 2-13 this season. Still, this game should have Badgers fans on high alert because Northwestern typically plays Wisconsin tough with a physical style. Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said continuity on Northwestern’s coaching staff, coupled with talented football players, means he knows the Badgers have “got to earn everything” whenever the teams meet. Wisconsin has its flaws this season, but I still think this is a team capable of winning the West Division. Even if Coan has to start in place of Hornibrook, the Badgers have the personnel to beat the Wildcats with a simplified offensive gameplan. Run the ball, ask Coan to complete a few short throws and play sound defense in the air against a Northwestern team that struggles to run the ball.”
Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 17.
Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 24. “Jonathan Taylor, who averages 6.5 yards a carry and 158.4 yards a game, should have a monster day behind Wisconsin’s brute offensive line. Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats are built to keep games close; five games this season have been decided by five points or fewer, including last week’s 18-15 escape at Rutgers.”
Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Leader: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 24.
David Kenyon of Bleacher Report: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 23. “Northwestern took Michigan to the wire, upset Michigan State and barely survived Nebraska and Rutgers. Which Wildcats team will show up? Although Wisconsin’s defense is mediocre this year, the unit ranks 24th inside the red zone. Timely stops will propel the Badgers.”
Of the nine reporters over at Inside NU, three are actually picking Wisconsin to win.
The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 17.
Al “Big Al’ Arend of the Herald-Palladium: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 28.
Joe Vozzelli of the Champaign News-Gazette: Wisconsin 28, Northwestern 21.
Bill Connelly of SB Nation: His S&P+ projection has it Wisconsin 35, Northwestern 24.
Ben Kercheval of CBSSports.com picks Wisconsin to win straight up (but Northwestern to cover).
All three Athlon Sports analysts are picking Wisconsin to win.
All six analysts at USAToday.com pick Wisconsin to win.
All nine analysts for the Dallas Morning News have the Badgers winning but only four think Wisconsin will cover a six-point spread.
All six analysts at the Tampa Bay Times pick Wisconsin. The scores: 30-23, 34-27, 32-31, 28-17, 28-14.
All three analysts at FootballScoop.com pick Wisconsin to win.
Call it a trend. All eight analysts at SI.com think Wisconsin will emerge with a victory. Joan Niesen writes: “This is going to be a close one, and as much as I want to pick Northwestern in a home upset, I just don’t think the offense has enough to put up points against the Badgers. Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson has been turnover-happy of late, and I expect Wisconsin to take advantage.”