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Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Wisconsin Badgers Betting Odds and Pick

Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-4 SU, 2-3ATS) vs. No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers (4-1 SU, 1-4 ATS), Week 6 NCAA Football, 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 9, 2010, Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis., TV: Big Ten Network
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Betting Odds: University of Minnesota +22/UW -22
Over/Under Total: 57

The oldest rivalry in college football will write another chapter Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, when the 20th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers host the Minnesota Golden Gophers in their annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

The Badgers dropped nine spots in the AP Top 25 poll after last week’s loss at Michigan State, 34-24, thanks to a porous defense that allowed the Spartans 444 yards of total offense. Now the Badgers are in need of a bounce-back game at home against a big rival, with the hopes of continuing their recent dominance of the series and the axe by going for their seventh straight win over the Gophers.

Minnesota on the other hand has nowhere to go but up, and a huge victory on the road in the battle for the axe would help Gophers fans and alums off of coach Tim Brewster’s back for his team’s second consecutive season with a 1-4 start.

After holding a rare halftime lead against Northwestern last week (21-14), the Gophers gave up the lead late in the fourth quarter and then watched as their rally ended on an Adam Weber interception on 4th-and-11 with just 17 seconds on the clock. But the Gophers defense also had its problems stopping Northwestern (486 yards allowed), so this Big Ten Conference matchup with Wisconsin could get real ugly before it’s all over.

Oddsmakers don’t seem to believe the Gopher stand a chance, listing the opening point spread with Wisconsin as rather large 21-point favorites at home in Camp Randall. With most of the early action on Wisconsin, the number has already moved up quickly to 21.5- and 22- points at most of the online sportsbooks.

The over/under total is only currently listed at a few sportsbooks (Pinnacle, 5Dimes), with an opening number of 57.

Offensively the Badgers must get better production on third down from quarterback Scott Tolzien and company because their failure to convert on 3rd down (3-for-11) last week cost them dearly in a stat they usually own, time of possession, as the Spartans held the ball for nearly a full quarter more on offense (36 min.-to-23 min.).

Part of the reason the Badgers had such a hard time converting to move the chains was the lingering ankle issues of starting running back John Clay. Clay, who had ankle surgeries in the offseason, was “held” to 80 yards by Michigan State. But Minnesota will have to game- plan for freshman James White, who came in for Clay and ran for 98 yards and two scores on just 10 carries.

Wisconsin will try and get its offense going again against a Minnesota defense that’s allowed over 400 yards per game all season long (406.8 ypg – 92nd). I mentioned before that this game could get ugly, well it could get especially ugly for Gopher fans if their defense continues to allow 185 yards per game on the ground. As the Spartans proved last week, if you can stop the Badgers running game and make Tolzien beat you, you stand a better chance at upsetting the 20th-ranked Badgers.

Minnesota will need to try and duplicate the versatile attack the Spartans used against the Badgers defense, and with talent like senior quarterback Adam Weber (1,199 yards 9 TD) and Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge the Gophers have the horses to do it. The Gophers also struggle on third downs from time to time (3-of-11 vs. Northwestern), and Weber has not been nearly as accurate (62.3 comp. %) or efficient (4 INT) as you would expect from a senior signal caller.

But with a 26.8 points per game average, scoring points on offense hasn’t been the problem with the Gophers. It been their average of 30.6 points allowed per game that has them at 1-4 this season … again.

Wisconsin’s defense showed some cracks and how thin they are at linebacker last week against the Spartans. Without their best pass rusher playing (Chris Borland is out for the season) the Badgers couldn’t get much pressure on Michigan State Kirk Cousins, and the result was a solid 268-yard – 2-touchdown performance from Cousins against them despite a few early interceptions.

If Weber can get a rhythm going early, he could play the biggest role of spoiler for the Gophers in this game. Last year he threw for 271 yards and a score against the Badgers, so he’s had some success versus them in the past.

The problem for Minnesota was that their defense could not stop the Badger running game last year, as they racked up 295 yards on the ground with a 6.0 yard per carry average in what turned into a 31-28 victory for Wisconsin on the road at TFC Bank Stadium.

As mentioned, the win was the sixth in a row for the Badgers in the series straight up (and 8-2 L10). The Badgers have done nearly as well for bettors in the series as well, going 7-3 ATS in the last 10 overall but just 1-2 ATS in the last three years. Both times the Gophers covered were as large underdogs (13.5-points in both games) too.

The strongest betting trend in this game is the over wager. The over is 10-1 in the last 11 head-to-head meetings and it’s also a perfect 5-0 in the last five at Camp Randall.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I know Minnesota is bad this year, but this is a perfect spot for the Gophers to save Brewster’s job (or prevent him from losing it before the seasons over). Plus, this is a rivalry game that hasn’t produced a blowout win for either team since 2006. The Badgers are due for a big game, but I still think they’re way overrated. I’m taking Minnesota plus the 22-points in this game.

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