Ryan Mayer

The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Kentucky (7-5) vs. #21 Northwestern (9-3)

Spread: Northwestern -7

Total: 51

Spread: How Kentucky is bowl eligible is a thing of wonder this season when you consider some of the statistics. The Wildcats average giving up more points than they score (28.5 to 25.8) and out-gained by opponents (425.7 to 350.8). Six of their seven wins came by 11 or fewer points, including four by a touchdown or fewer. That all said, they’re here and they have one dangerous weapon in the backfield in Benjamin Snell Jr. Snell carried 256 times for over 1,300 yards with 18 touchdowns. QB Stephen Johnson was solid, completing 60 percent of his passes on just 24 attempts per game, with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. The defense was the bugaboo for coach Mark Stoops, as the Wildcats often found themselves exposed by opposing passing games (65.3 percent, 261 YPG) while also giving up 4+ yards per carry and over 160 yards per game on the ground. That doesn’t bode well for a match-up with Northwestern and RB Justin Jackson.

Speaking of Jackson, he toted the ball 255 times for 1,154 yards with nine touchdowns in helping the ‘Cats to average over 29 points and 400 yards per game. QB Clayton Thorson did his part as well throwing for over 2,800 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he did have a problem with turnovers, throwing 12 picks. As long as he makes good decisions against Kentucky, Northwestern should have no problem putting points on the board. On defense, Northwestern was a stout group, holding opponents just under 20 points (19.8) and 360 yards (358.8) per game. Freshman LB Paddy Fisher led the team in tackles with 108, while fellow ‘backer junior Nate Hall was the havoc-creator with 17 tackles for loss and five sacks in finishing second on the team in tackles behind Fisher.

Further tipping the scales in Northwestern’s favor in this battle of the Wildcats are the ATS trends. NW was 9-3 against the spread this year and 6-2 as a favorite. Kentucky? They went 3-9, though all three of those covers came when UK was the underdog. Northwestern -7

Total: The total is a little trickier to figure out as NW was 5-6-1 while UK was 6-6. Northwestern’s defense is very good which could lead to a lopsided score that comes in below the 51 listed here. Kentucky does have a big weapon in Snell, but the NW defense could very well neutralize him. Still, Northwestern’s offense is potent enough to potentially hit the over here in 41-17 or 41-20 style. Over 51

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