Wisconsin Badgers (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:30pm ET
Where: Michigan Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WISC +10/MICH -10
Over/Under Total: 44.5
If we are talking about a big-time game at The Big House, it is usually late in the year and Ohio State is probably coming to town. Well, we are only five weeks into the season and the Michigan Wolverines have a Top-10 opponent coming to Ann Arbor in the form of the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers have been one of the biggest surprises in the early going having already knocked off two Top-10 foes but need to keep slaying the Big Ten giants if they want those wins to count for something. Michigan has looked impressive on both sides of the ball throughout their early slate but Wisconsin looks to be the most complete team they have faced thus far. The Wolverines are looking to reverse a trend that has them winless in their last eleven games against a Top-10 foe. 2007 was the last time Michigan got a win against such an opponent and it ironically was the 9th ranked Badgers who entered Ann Arbor and took the loss.
Michigan is clearly one of the best teams in college football through the first month but they are getting the juggernaut treatment as 10-point favorites. Wisconsin is going to look at that double digit line as a little bit of an insult considering they have routinely performed against top competition but the Badgers are very used to being overlooked to some degree. Wisconsin is 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against an opponent with a winning record and 5-1 ATS in their last six overall. Michigan has four ATS wins in the last five.
This will be the first meeting for these teams since 2010. Wisconsin rolled into Ann Arbor that day and handed Michigan a 48-28 defeat behind 56 rushing attempts. The Badgers ran so well that they only attempted one pass in the second half. Something tells me it won’t be that easy this time around. Paul Chryst will face off with Jim Harbaugh for the first time but there is familiarity between these two coaches. Chryst coached the tight ends for the San Diego Chargers when Harbaugh was finishing up his playing career there and Paul’s brother, Geep, was the quarterbacks coach for the 49ers under Harbaugh. Oh, what a tangled web we weave.
Wisconsin answered a lot of questions last week during their 30-6 win at Michigan State. Alex Hornibrook played remarkably well in his first collegiate start, completing 8-of-10 passes on third down, proving the moment was not too big for him. He did fumble and throw an interception but the Badgers were masterful on defense, holding MSU to just 2.8 yards per carry while snagging three interceptions. T.J. Watt was named Defensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten after a tremendous all-around game and the Wisconsin faithful love seeing another Watt in the opposing backfield. Corey Clement returned after missing a game due to an ankle injury, scoring two touchdowns and giving the Badgers a gamebreaking threat. This Wisconsin team will be able to test Michigan in all three phases of the game.
Michigan cruised past Penn State, 49-10, to open their conference schedule and they looked much like they have all year. They were efficient on offense, seeing success on the ground and through the air with a rock-solid defense. The playmaking advantage will be with the Wolverines as QB Wilton Speight looks to be the better of the two signal callers and the WR/TE combo of Amara Darboh and Jake Butt will be the most difficult matchup the Badgers defense has faced. The ultimate playmaker, Jabrill Peppers, patrols both sides of the ball for Michigan and is leading the Big Ten in punt returns, averaging 22.7 yards per return. Peppers has 9.5 tackles for loss among his 33 total tackles, will likely see some carries on offense and is widely considered the best player in college football.
Wisconsin has been aces on defense this year, even though they have lost a couple of starters to injury. The Badgers enter the week allowing the 12th fewest total yards and just 11.8 points per game, good for 7th in the country. Their rush defense is allowing just 80 yards per contest and that will be a matchup to watch as Michigan averages 229 yards on the ground. The Wolverine offensive line is among the best in the nation and Michigan heads into Saturday averaging 52 points per game but some of that may be skewed by all four games coming at home with no opponent ranked in the top-50 in points allowed.
I am a little surprised at the double digit line here, especially after Wisconsin went into East Lansing and came out with a lopsided win. Michigan is no doubt a top-tier squad but the style of play on both sides by Wisconsin typically has them within a score. Maybe I’m way off but Hornibrook looks like he can make plays in the passing game and the Badgers have three pass catchers with at least 14 receptions each, making them a more versatile offense to guard than in many years past. This has all the making of a war-in-the-trenches with line play to be the determining factor and that basically makes this a 50/50 call given the talent on both teams. Wisconsin makes up for a lack of playmakers by executing a high level and will stay with Michigan all day. I think the Wolverines stay undefeated but ten is too much to lay against a hard-nosed Badger team. Michigan 24 Wisconsin 20
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Wisconsin
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