Ohio State Buckeyesvs.Wisconsin Badgers Point Spread – Pick ATS 12/2/2017

Ohio State Buckeyes(10-2SU,5-7ATS) vs.Wisconsin Badgers(12-0SU,8-4ATS)
Big Ten Championship
Date and Time:Saturday, December 2 at 8pm ET
Where:Lucas Oil Stadium
byEvergreen,Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread:OSU -6/WIS +6
Over/Under Total:53

The College Football Playoff push has reached its final week with all the conference championships scheduled this weekend. The Big Ten will be won be either the Wisconsin Badgers or Ohio State Buckeyes and both teams are looking to parlay a win in Indy into a berth in the playoff final four. The scenario is simplest for the Badgers as a win means they are in but the Buckeyes need some style points and likely some committee members to campaign heavily in their favor. Regardless of what is potentially next, this matchup is about as juicy as it gets in the B10 with Wisconsins #1 ranked defense squaring off against the #4 offense of Ohio State. There is a revenge factor for Bucky as they lost an overtime game to OSU in Madison last year and there is always the chip on the Badgers shoulder as they remain somewhat disrespected despite being the only undefeated Power 5 left. Ohio State is perennially one of the strongest teams in the country and a 3-loss season would certainly qualify as a disappointment.

There was little speculation that Ohio State would be favored here and the online betting sites opened with OSU as 6.5 point favorites. About 70% of the early money came in on Wisconsin and the line has been pushed to WIS +6 with the over/under total at 53 points. OSU is 5-1 against the spread in their last six neutral site games with Wisconsin at 3-7 ATS in the last ten on a neutral field. The Badgers enter on a 4-0 ATS run and the Buckeyes are 2-7 against the spread in their last nine against an opponent with a winning record. The Sagarin computers have Wisconsin at #5 and Ohio State at #6 with a predicted 26-24 OSU win. The S&P+ efficiency modeling has OSU at #1 with Wisconsin at #3 with a 2.7 point advantage for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State has won five straight in this series with their last defeat coming in 2010 at Camp Randall. Two of those last five games went to overtime but one that did not was the 59-0 beat down Wisconsin suffered in the 2014 Big Ten Championship game. Indy is familiar territory for the Badgers as they will be making their 5th appearance in just the 7th edition of the conference championship with a 2-2 record to this point. They jumped out to a big lead against Penn State last year before fading and ultimately losing 38-31. Ohio State will be making its third appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium and looking for their second Big Ten Championship game win. This will be the second appearance for the Buckeyes as representatives from the East division. They won the Leaders division in 2013 before the Big Ten expanded and realigned.


One of the most influential items for Saturday is the health of J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes QB exited the Michigan game early with a knee injury that reportedly was first incurred due to a mishap with a cameraman on the sideline during warmups. Regardless of what did or didnt happen there, Barrett has been dealing with a troublesome knee that has locked up on a few occasions through the season. He has been upgraded to probable after some rehab but the play of backup Dwayne Haskins has Ohio State comfortable they can win if Barrett cant go or is limited and needs to be replaced. Barrett would be the best option as he has accounted for 42 touchdowns so far but Wisconsin is top-5 in the nation with 39 sacks for and could prey upon a one-legged Barrett. Beyond that injury, both teams are going to have the full complement of starters they have been using over the last month or so.

This game is full of premiere matchups. Like I said, Wisconsin enters with the nations best defense and allows 236 total yards per game while Ohio State accounts for 529 yards per game, good for 4th best. The OSU running game is 13th while Wisconsin is the best run-stopping unit, allowing just 80 yards per game. The Badgers have limited some rather pedestrian offenses to earn that #1 ranking but it is worth pointing out that they held an Iowa team to 66 total yards a week after the Hawkeyes dropped 55 points on Ohio State. Wisconsin has the 18th ranked rushing offense, powered by Jonathan Taylor (1,806 yards, 13 TDs) but how will they do up against a Buckeye run defense that is ranked 13th, allowing 112 yards per game? The weakest spot on either side is the 98th ranked pass offense of Wisconsin. Alex Hornibrook has thrown an interception in all but one Big Ten game and it will be to OSUs advantage if Hornibrook is tasked with bringing the Badgers back from a double-digit deficit. Hornibrook is capable of making some gutty throws however and has hit on 21 passing scores while his 8.8 yards per attempt is slightly better than the 8.3 of Barrett. Whichever team is allowed to reach their respective season averages may enjoy a relatively easy win. Chances are, neither cruises and this one turns into a field position, time of possession and turnover battle kind of affair.

Ohio State uses a quick strike kind of offense, one that has rung up 43.8 points per game thus far. Wisconsin has enjoyed over 35 minutes time of possession this season, a key stat that illustrates how they wear an opponent down over time while also keeping their defense fresh. The Badger defense was on the field for just 19 snaps during the first half last week against Minnesota. Getting three-and-outs while keeping the field position tilted in their favor also business as usual for UW. If Ohio State can flip the field on Wisconsin, it will put the Badger offense in many more tough scenarios than they are used to. Wisconsin is just over 50% in converting 3rd downs but much of that success is due to the 3rd-and-short situations they enjoy. Ohio State has held opponents to just 32% conversions and does so by keeping the offense facing third-and-longs. The back-and-forth, strength-on-strength statistical analysis of this game is pointing to one very good matchup on paper and one that is difficult to predict.

Ohio State does have an edge in playmakers. The Buckeyes have 31 rushing scores as a team and most of them have come from J.K. Dobbins (7), Mike Weber (10) and Barrett (10). OSU leans on its horses and has success as long as Barrett can move the ball consistently. Wisconsin is a much more balanced team on both sides of the ball. There wont be many, perhaps zero, national award winners on their side but that do-the-job mentality is exactly what should stress out the Buckeyes. Wisconsins bet is that it can do what it wants, even though you know exactly what is coming. There is confidence baked into that approach, even though it is never uttered out loud. The Badgers can win but they must play a near perfect game to do so as they will not cover up mistakes against OSU the same way they can against an Illinois or Minnesota team. The flashy Buckeyes will get the better of Wisconsin on Saturday and end the perfect season dreams of the Badger faithful but this team is not going down in the same 59-0 fashion. Look for a one-score game throughout with OSU needing a late field goal to win the conference. OSU 27 WIS 24

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