Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3 SU, 4-4-1 ATS) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (9-0 SU, 5-4 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date and Time: Saturday, November 11 at 12pm ET
Where: Camp Randall
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IOWA +12.5/WISC -12.5
With a marshmallow-soft schedule to this point, the Wisconsin Badgers have run up a 9-0 record and enter the week as just one of five unbeaten teams in the FBS. That lack of quality competition has hurt UW when it comes to the College Football Playoff rankings but their prospects may improve as the 25th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes come to Madison this weekend. The Big Ten has premiere rivalries like Ohio State v. Michigan and the Axe game against Minnesota is Wisconsins primary border war but there is absolutely no love lost between the Badgers and Hawkeyes. Just two of the last ten meetings in this series have been decided by more than 10 points and the last six have been won by the visiting team. There is no better way to stir up angst in your opponent than constantly winning in their building and these teams have traded blows often in recent years. Wisconsin is just one win away from securing a spot in Indy for the Big Ten Championship game but they will have to put together four solid quarters to punch that ticket against Iowa.
Wisconsin was thought to be favored in every game when the schedule dropped and nothing has changed for this week as the Badgers have been listed as 12.5 point favorites. Iowa enters as ATS losers in four of the last five on the road but have won each of the last five against the spread in Madison. The Hawkeyes are 9-4 ATS in the last thirteen in this series overall. Wisconsin has been flip-flopping ATS wins and losses all season with zero wins against the spread in the game following an ATS win. The schedule-ignoring, efficiency focused metrics carved out by the S&P+ folks have the Badgers at 10.5 points better than the Hawkeyes while the Sagarin computers are calling for a five point Wisconsin win.
Iowa is coming off one of the most impressive wins of last week and the Big Ten season overall. A 55-24 pummeling of Ohio State put the Hawkeyes in a position to turn an average season into a good one but they will need another plus performance in Madison. Iowa escaped Camp Randall in 2015 with a 10-6 win but it will be tough to hold Wisconsin down again as the Badgers enter as the 37th ranked team in total yards (16th rushing) and average 36.1 points per game. Nathan Stanley has emerged as a solid signal caller with 22 TDs (5 last week) against four interceptions but his overall completion percentage is hovering just north of 55%. Wisconsins pass defense is ranked 18th in the country and their secondary is buoyed by a defensive front that is top-5 in sacks. Stanley will need a quality game to keep Iowa moving the ball and likely another top-end effort to get a second upset win.
Wisconsins 45-17 win at Indiana looks good from afar but the Badgers started slow, as they have done in almost every game over the last month, and had to overcome a 10-0 deficit. The main struggles have been centered around penalties on offense and turnovers with both contributing to the sluggish start last week. Alex Hornibrook is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NCAA but he has thrown for nine interceptions, including one in the endzone against Indiana. Another Badger drive was stalled by three offensive holding penalties. Wisconsin prefers to stay ahead of the sticks with Jonathan Taylor (7.2 yards per carry) churning out rushing yards but those penalties put them in 2nd and 3rd-and-long situations. Iowa is 46th in run-stopping but they will be much more effective is Wisconsin continues to self-inflict long yardage scenarios.
While Iowa has access to nearly every one of their preferred starters, Wisconsin is dealing with a few key injuries. Leading receiver, Quintez Cephus will miss Saturday with a leg injury. Cephus had become the big play guy in the Wisconsin passing game and led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. There is depth at the position for the Badgers but most of the wide receivers are unproven to say the least. Tight end Troy Fumagalli will likely be featured Saturday. The NFL-prospect is tied for the team lead in receptions and is the go-to on third downs and play-action. The Badger defense will be without LB Chris Orr and starting safety DCota Dixon. The absence of Dixon is more problematic given the recent success of Iowas passing game. The Badgers run defense is ranked 4th at 88 yards allowed per game but there have been a few lapses in coverage as teams have picked on the man-heavy scheme Wisconsin uses. UW is still a top-20 pass defense but that is the soft spot so missing a starting safety could hurt.
Iowa will surely be riding high as they get to Madison but it is possible they are facing the best team they have on their schedule. Wisconsin leads the NCAA in third down conversions at 53.5% and averages 35 minutes in time of possession. That grind-it-out style keeps the ball away from the opponent, tires out the defense and keeps the Wisconsin defense fresh. Iowa is inside the top-20 in points allowed at 18.1 per game but they are not elite at any one specific category on offense or defense. Paul Chryst is 30-6 as a head coach at Wisconsin and nearly every one of those Ws came as a result of Wisconsin owning an X-factor over the opponent. A fast scoring offense could stress out Wisconsins D or a great run stopping D could take UW off course on offense. Iowa doesnt really have either element to their game. They are well coached and underrated athletically to be fair but they are just a half step behind Wisconsin while attempting to run a very similar system. Akrum Wadley is over 1,000 scrimmage yards with eight touchdowns and Nick Easley is a veteran target as a junior wide out but Iowa is a few playmakers short of being a tough matchup for a Wisconsin defense allowing 13.3 points per game.
With Wisconsin busy doing very Wisconsin-like things, it is hard to see a team knocking them off at Camp Randall. Iowa has had success in doing just that but this Badger team has the better defense and the single best playmaker on the field in Jonathan Taylor. No one has shut the Badgers running game down and that has allowed Hornibrook to make easy throws as the secondary commits to stopping the rush. Wisconsin will be in trouble as soon as someone puts the fate of the game squarely on their passing game or if they should trail by more than seven in the later going but that just hasnt happened yet. The biggest thing working against Wisconsin is their own penalty and turnover sins and that is why the pick is Iowa at +12 and half. Wisconsin is taking a step up in competition and cant get away with the same sloppiness that they could against an Illinois or Indiana team. Iowa can do enough on offense to cash in the extra 10 points the others have not and that makes the double digit line a big betting advantage for them. Wisconsin stays spotless but look for a score like 26-17. Even a good Wisconsin performance could leave them an ATS loser at 31-20 or so. The Badgers are a little schizophrenic this season, constantly trading ATS wins and losses and I think that trend continues as this number is just a little too high for Bucky.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: IOWA - Where are you betting this game? Bet it for FREE by taking advantage of a 50% welcome bonus offered to new players at Bovada Sportsbook