Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) +3.5, 59.5 O/U vs. Tennessee Volunteers
(9-4) -3.5, 59.5 O/U, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida, 11 AM
Eastern, Tuesday January 1st
by Badger of Predictem.com
This years Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida, will feature one of the
three Big-10-vs.-SEC showdowns in bowl play, when the Wisconsin
Badgers travel south to play the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee comes into the Outback Bowl on the heels of a 21-14 loss to
LSU in the SEC Championship game. The loss to LSU snapped a five-game
winning streak for the Vols at the end of the season, so they will be
looking to start off 2008 by getting back in the win column.
Wisconsin finished their regular season with a narrow 41-34 victory
over rival Minnesota, but just like the rest of the Big-10 teams that
were invited to bowl games, that game seems like it was eons ago
(actually November 17th).
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas opened this game with Tennessee as a 4-point
favorite, with a 59.5 over/under total.
Tennessee will try and get their offense back on track following
their sub-par performance in the SEC title game. Quarterback Erik
Ainge played well early in the game, but two crucial interceptions
ended up costing the Volunteers the game. Ainge (3,157 yds., 29 TD’s)
has a good surrounding cast, as the Vols boast a 1,000- yard rusher
in Arian Foster (1,162 yds., 14 TD’s) and a 1,000-yard receiver in
Lucas Taylor (1,000 yds., 5 TD’s). This balance doesn’t show up in
their season statistics though, as Tennessee finished just 57th in
total yards (399.2) per game and 30th in points per game at 33.4.
Wisconsins offense is the classic Big-10 style offense, grind it out
on the ground with just enough of a mix of play-action passing to
keep the defense honest. Fifth-year senior Tyler Donovan (2,452 yds.,
16 TD’s) is solid but unspectacular as the Badgers leader, but he does
protect the ball and use his legs to scramble when the pocket breaks
down. Their top running back P.J. Hill will likely miss the game due
to his leg injury, but it won’t affect the running game as much as
most experts predict. Your sister could run behind the Badgers
mammoth offensive line (201.5 ypg rushing 21st), and freshman Zach
Brown (539 yds, 4.9 ave., 5 TD’s) has filled in well in Hills
absence. On the season, Wisconsin averaged 30.5 points per game, the
47th best mark in the country.
Tennessees defense has been a disappointment this season no doubt.
The unit gives up over 400 yards per game (407.6 75th) and is
vulnerable to giving up big plays on the ground (68th 162.5 ypg)
and in the air (85th 245.1 ypg). Their weakness against the run
should keep the coaching staff up at night, as Wisconsin will no
doubt try and cram it down the throats. The Volunteers allow 28.1
points per game, the 67th best average in the NCAA.
Wisconsins defense has underachieved this season as well. Considered
to be the strength of the team in the preseason, the Badgers were
exposed several times during the season and allow 23.3 points per
game (37th). The small but fast linebacker corps is susceptible to
the run (51st), but good in pass drops (36th), so the Badgers have a
decent 350.4 yards per game average that ended the season 37th
overall in the country.
These two schools have never met on the gridiron, so there are no
historical betting trends to report.
Tennessee was a strong bet for gamblers this season, ending the year
8-4-1 ATS. They closed out the year 4-1-1 ATS in the last six games,
although the one push could have been another win if you got on the
+7.5 spread early before it dropped to +7 just before kickoff versus
LSU. The Vols were 7-6 versus the total on the year, but five of
their last six games fell under the number.
Wisconsin is a team that wins ugly, as their 4-7 ATS mark would
indicate. The four teams they covered against (Wash. St., No.
Illinois, Indiana and Michigan) weren’t exactly powerhouses either.
Their record versus the total isn’t awe inspiring either, as they
ended 6-5, but they did go over the total in each of their last three
Since the line opened, the early money has been put on the Badgers as
most sportsbooks have dropped the spread to Tennessee -3.5, or even
-3 at a few Las Vegas sportsbooks. Neither offense is inspiring the
public either, as the total has dropped to 58.5 or even 58 at some of
the offshore sportsbooks on the islands.
Badgers Pick: I wouldn’t be true to my name if I didn’t take the
Badgers in this game, but let me tell you why. Look for Wisconsin to
establish the play-action pass early in the game, likely Donovan to
TE Travis Beckum, when the Vols are stacking the box expecting run.
Once the Vols back off, then the steady diet of power running will
milk the clock late. Tennessee will score too, but the Badgers will
blitz the crap out of Ainge and disrupt the flow of Tennessees
offense. Wisconsin wins ugly again, something like 27-24, but a win
is a win. Take Wisconsin plus the points.