Northwestern Football - Wildcats 2023 Season Preview, Predictions & Best Bets

Jul 26, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Northwestern Wildcats interim head coach David Braun speaks to the media during the Big 10 football media day at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
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Sam Avellone


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Long-time suffering Browns fan born and raised in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area who now resides in SEC country. University of South Carolina alum. Sports handicapper for close to 10 years with a primary focus on NCAAB while enjoying NFL, PGA, NCAAF, NBA, and Soccer. For Sam Avellone media enquiries, please email
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Pat Fitzgerald was fired in July amid hazing allegations within the program and was replaced with David Braun, an interim head coach that won 2 national titles at North Dakota State as a defensive coordinator. Braun has no FBS coaching experience, so he brought in Skip Holtz to be his special assistant and help with game preparation as well as day-to-day operations. Having Holtz will be resourceful for Braun, but he faces a tall task of leading this program following the off-the-field turmoil and just a 1-win season in 2022.  

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Northwestern Wildcats 2023 College Football Season Odds

Odds provided by FanDuel Sportsbook

Northwestern National Championship Odds

The Wildcats are extreme longshots to win the national championship. They are listed at 1,000/1. 

Northwestern Wildcats Big Ten Championship Odds

Northwestern is 420/1 to win the Big Ten.

Northwestern Wildcats Big Ten West Odds

The Wildcats have the longest odds to win the Big Ten West at 110/1.

Northwestern 2022 Season Recap

The Wildcats started the season with a 31-28 win over Nebraska in Ireland, but then proceeded to lose 11 straight games and failed to score more than 24 points in any of them – including their loss to FCS Southern Illinois. Northwestern finished 129th out of 131 teams in scoring with just 12.8 per game against FBS opponents. Furthermore, the Wildcats ranked 125th in drive efficiency and touchdown rate while finishing 126th in points per drive and 130th in turnover rate. Their best performers were running back Evan Hull, who accumulated 1,459 total yards and 7 total touchdowns, and wide receiver Malik Washington – who reeled in 65 catches, 694 yards, and 1 touchdown. As a whole, the Wildcats threw just 10 touchdown passes and rushed for another 11. 

Northwestern’s defense was a bit better than its offense, but still had trouble preventing opponents from scoring. The Wildcats allowed 28.1 point per game to FBS opponents and finished outside the top 75 in drive efficiency, points per drive, and touchdown rate. They also struggled to force turnovers, ranking 107th in opposing turnover rate and 113th in takeaways per game against FBS opponents.

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Northwestern Wildcats 2023 College Football Season Outlook

Northwestern returns just 46% of its offensive production from last season, as Hull now plays for the Indianapolis Colts and Washington transferred to Virginia. Ryan Hilinski returns after starting last season as the team’s top quarterback, but Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant is expected to take over that role. Cam Porter is expected to be the top running back despite averaging just 3.3 yards per carry last season, while Anthony Tyus III projects to step into a bigger role as well despite just 2.9 yards per carry. A couple of senior transfer wide receivers in Cam Johnson and A.J. Henning project to start alongside Bryce Kirtz, who had 19 catches for 212 yards in 2022, and returning starting tight end Marshall Lang will likely assume the same role this year. Finally, the offensive line will have big shoes to fill with Peter Skoronski now playing for the Tennessee Titans and just 2 returning pieces that played more than 100 snaps last season.

The Wildcats will have 64% of its returning defensive production from last season and will likely run a 4-2-5 with returning leading tacklers Bryce Gallagher and Xander Mueller anchoring the middle of the defense at linebacker. Fresno State transfer Matt Lawson figures to start on the interior of the defensive line next to returning contributor Najee Story, while Aidan Hubbard and Sean McLaughlin line up on the ends and will be called upon to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks in the absence of Adetomiwa Adebawore. In the secondary, Rod Heard II, Devin Turner, Garnett Hollis Jr., and Theran Johnson all return after playing at least 8 games last season. 

Northwestern opens the season with a conference road game at Rutgers in Week 1 followed by a home game against UTEP in Week 2. The Wildcats then travel to Duke for a non-conference matchup before 3 straight home games against Minnesota, Penn State, and Howard. They enjoy some time off in Week 7 and then travel to Nebraska in Week 8 before consecutive home games against Maryland and Iowa in the following weeks. Northwestern travels to Wisconsin in Week 10, hosts Purdue in Week 11, and finishes the season on the road at Illinois for its in-state rivalry game.

Be sure to also check out our Big Ten preview, as well as our team previews for Michigan State and Penn State.

Best Bet: Northwestern Wildcats under 3 regular season wins (-120)

Odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of publishing

With home games against UTEP and Howard on the schedule, Northwestern could double its win total from last season. However, I struggle to see many more opportunities for wins despite an upgrade at quarterback considering the inexperience of Coach Braun, the shuffling of the offensive line, and the lack of production returning at running back and wide receiver. With an opportunity to push this bet on 3 wins, I much prefer this number than under 2.5 at plus-money. 

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