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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Odds - Free Pick

Wisconsin Badgers(7-0 SU, 4-3 ATS) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-5 SU, 2-5 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date and Time: Saturday, October 28 at 12pm ET
Where: Memorial Stadium
TV: ESPN
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: WISC -26/ILL +26
Over/Under Total: 49

The Big Ten conference has a marquee matchup this weekend between Penn State and Ohio State with many onlookers ready to tab the winner for a final four appearance. The West side of the conference is a little less crowded at the top and Wisconsin heads to Illinois this week with a spotless record and every win moves them closer to the Big Ten Championship game. Should that happen, and the Badgers knock off a †top-5 PSU or OSU, then Wisconsin becomes a factor in the playoff selection process. That would be the ultimate goal for Wisconsin but there are a few hurdles left to clear and a couple of trap games, including this weekend in Champaign.

Wisconsin has owned the last decade of this series, going 9-1 straight up since 2005 but just 5-5 against the spread. They have often struggled to cover large point spreads and they will battle that scenario again as nearly every online betting site has the Badgers as 26-point favorites. The game opened with Illinois at +24 but early action has pushed that line up two points by the end of Monday with the over/under in the 49 point range. Wisconsin enters on an 8-0 ATS run as visitors and have won 10-of-15 against the spread in conference. Illinois is just 2-8 ATS in their last ten home games and 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games overall. After a 2-0 start to 2017, the Illini have looked a bit lost in losing five straight. Wisconsin is the 8th rated squad according to the Sagarin computers with Illinois a long way back at #118. The offense-defense computer models are calling for a 40-7 Wisconsin win.

My knee-jerk reaction is to take Wisconsin in this one, simply based on the 48-3 throttling they put on Illinois last year. The Badgers ran for 363 yards in Madison and picked off four Jeff George Jr. passes on the way to an easy win and most of the principals are the same for this game. Wisconsinís running game is 16th in the nation and will run against the 108th ranked run defense. George is still at the helm for the Illini and his 4-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio shows he has not suddenly become accurate or careful with the ball. If anything, Wisconsin has upgraded the offense behind better play from Alex Hornibrook and freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor looks to be another stud back in pantheon of standout Badger runners. Mike Epstein was churning out 6.1 yards per carry in the Illinois backfield but is likely out for the remainder of the year with a foot injury. RaíVon Bonner has moved into the lead back role and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns but is averaging just over three yards per carry. Wisconsin is the 5th best run-stopping defense so more tough sledding is ahead for the freshman Bonner.

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Wisconsin has had a different defensive coordinator in each of the last three seasons but it has simply not mattered in terms of the on-field production. The Badgers are no worse than 16th in yardage allowed categories and enter the week 6th in points allowed at just 13.3 per game. Compare that to the 29.6 points that Illinois allows and you begin to see how uphill the statistical battle is. The Illini are 96th or worse in offensive yardage categories and the first question you should ask is just how many points can Illinois get on the board? Wisconsin is top-5 in sacks and hold opponents to a 30% conversion rate on third down.

The quarterback matchup was close on paper last season as the redshirt freshman Hornibrook did not appear to be ready for primetime in most games. George Jr. still has the better arm of the two but Hornibrook has developed and thrived behind an offensive line that allowed just eight sacks in seven games. Illinois has allowed 18 sacks overall and that constant pressure has led to some ill-advised throws from both George and Chayce Crouch. The Badgers are as run heavy a team as you will find but Quintez Cephus has emerged as a playmaker, averaging 17.8 yards per catch while TE Troy Fumagalli does the dirty work underneath. Illinois has a couple of dependable pass-catchers in Ricky Smalling and Mike Dudek but the big plays have been few and far between with the duo at five touchdowns combined. Dudek missed last weekís game with a banged-up knee and may be out again this Saturday. Wisconsin has an advantage at running back in most weeks, but they likely have the edge in the pass game as well.

The methodical nature of the Badgers running game has them at just over 35 minutes in time of possession. The clock is moving almost always and they lead the NCAA with a 55.2% conversion rate on 3rd down. That frustrates the opposing defense and keeps the Badger defense fresh. All in all, Wisconsin does typical Wisconsin things and no one has really done anything to stop them. Penalties and turnovers have kept a few games close as UW has gone 7-0 but they still do enough right to beat the teams they are supposed to beat. Illinois is certainly a team that Wisconsin is supposed to beat but the Badgers will need to be ultra-efficient to score enough if the Illini can find a way to get to 14 points. Wisconsin needed a last minute field goal to cover the 24 against Maryland in what looks like a similar game to this one.

I do think the Badgers clean-up their turnovers, limit the penalties and run all over Illinois. Jonathan Taylor is averaging 7.5 yards per carry this season and has the big play potential to let Wisconsin score quickly. George isnít likely to stay clean in the interception department and any short fields will lead to more Wisconsin points. The Badger defense has accounted for as many points as they have given up in the second half of games so do not look for a late comeback to spoil the cover. Badgers win by a 40-10 score.

Evergreen's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Wisconsin - Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a FAT 100% bonus up to $1000 at MyBookie! (Use Promo Code: PRDCT14)

NCAA Football Week 12 Betting Previews

Here are some additional game previews with against the spread predictions.

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Computer Picks - We enter them into the computer and the machine makes it's picks. This is a great guide especially when betting totals! These are available after the first few weeks of the season.

Trends - Despite what you have been told or read on tout sites, the trend ain't your friend. We however turn the tables and fade the almighty trend for what should be some great profits over time.

2017/2018 College Football Predictions - Bob gives his picks to win each major conference. At the end, he gives his prediction on who thinks will win the 2018 National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8th.

2017 Heisman Trophy Predictions - USC QB Sam Darnold is a heavy pre-season favorite to win college football's most coveted award, but Jay isn't buying it. In fact, he's passing up the top (3) favored players in favor of a QB who he's confident will be NCAA football's best player in 2017.

2017-2018 College Football Championship Predictions - NCAA football experts have the Alabama Crimson Tide running away with the National Championship this season and who can blame them? Roll Tide is LOADED! It never happens that easy though. The USC Trojans (+825), Florida St. Seminoles (+850) and Ohio St. Buckckeyes (+875) all have a legit shot. Oddsmakers have Oklahoma (+1300) on the bubble and everybody looking from the outside in at 20/1 or higher. Jay gives his pick to win it all along with how his top 15 rankings for season's end. Get your bets in early before your favorite team's line drops!

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Heisman Trophy Betting Odds - USC QB Sam Darnold starts the season off as a heavy favorite at +350 odds. Sooners QB Baker Mayfield is second on the list at +700 but can he keep his nose clean? Louisville QB Lamar Jackson should dominate this season but will Louisville be taken seriously? Oregon Ducks RB Royce Freeman is worth a pop at 60/1 if he gets the carries. Bama WR Calvin Ridley brings experience and big-time playmaking ability and will be featured on National TV a bunch, giving him a legit darkhorse shot. But will they throw the ball enough with a QB who likes to run? Missing from this year's list of odds is a defensive player.

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