College Football Betting Preview: Northwestern vs. California Odds, Pick

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College Football Betting Preview: Northwestern vs. California Odds, Pick
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Not only did the Northwestern Wildcats come up with their best season last year since their near-miraculous run to the Rose Bowl back in 1996, but they were also one of the best teams in college football on which to wager, going 11-1-1 ATS.

The California Golden Bears, on the other hand, were just the opposite, going 3-9 ATS last year while winning just three games outright, an effort that ultimately resulted in a change in head coaches.

So the Wildcats will try to pick up where they left off, while Cal will shoot for a fresh start, when the teams meet for their 2013 season opener Saturday night in Berkeley.

As of early this week, most online sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com had Northwestern as 5.5-point road favorites over the Bears. The total was hovering around 58.

Northwestern, ranked No. 22 in the preseason polls, returns 15 starters from the team that went 10-3 last year and provided the program with its first bowl victory in more than 60 years.

Eight starters are back on offense, including senior quarterback Kain Colter and 1,300-yard rusher Venric Mark, and seven starters return on defense.

The Wildcats averaged 32 PPG last year and gave up 23 PPG, and it's conceivable they could improve on both those figures this season.

Cal, meanwhile, has just 11 starters back for its first season under new head coach Sonny Dykes. Five starters are back on offense, just two along the offensive line. And while six starters return on defense, they've got to replace three of last year's top four tacklers.

The Bears averaged 23 PPG last year, but that figure should go up running Dykes' no-huddle attack, which at Louisiana Tech led the nation in scoring last year at 51.5 PPG. However, how quickly that will happen is up for debate, as the Bears are expected to go with true freshman Jared Goff at QB to begin the season.

Defensively, Cal gave up 33 PPG last season, and there's no guarantee that unit will be any better this year.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams since Northwestern beat Cal in the 1949 Rose Bowl 20-14. Now, 64 years later, Northwestern is favored by those same six points.

This battle in Berkeley starts at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday and will be televised live by ESPN2.

 

Pick

Northwestern -6. We see the Wildcats continuing their winning (and covering) ways here to start the season.

Stats, odds courtesy of OddsShark.com. Follow Mike Pickett on Twitter.

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