Wisconsin Badgers (3-1 SU, 0-4 ATS) vs. No. 22 Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday September 29th, 2012. 8:00PM Eastern
Where: Memorial Stadium Lincoln, N.E
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Wisc +13/NEB -13
For the past two years, the Wisconsin Badgers have won
at least a share of the Big Ten Championship and represented the conference
in the Rose Bowl. Coach Bret Bielema knew the 2012 season would present
challenges after losing several key players from last year’s 11-3 campaign.
However, most of the folks from Madison expected their Badgers to be much
better than they have appeared through the first 4 games of the season.
Wisconsin sneaked by Northern Iowa in the opener 26-21 and then lost to
Oregon State 10-7 the following week in a baseball scoring style game. Since
the loss to Oregon State, the Badgers have posted two less than stellar
victories over Utah State and UTEP. The Badgers still have a chance to maintain
their elite status in the Big Ten when they start conference play this Saturday
night on the road against the no.22 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
However, the Badgers must play much better if they expect to contend in
the conference again this year.
The Badgers biggest woes have fallen on the offensive side of the football. Despite having one of the best players in the nation in running back Montee Ball, last year’s Heisman Trophy Finalist, the offense ranks 110th in the FBS averaging just 312 yards per game. Ball has received plenty of touches carrying the ball 93 times for 360 yards but has failed to produce the big numbers that he posted in 2011. One major reason is that defenses have loaded the box and sold out to stop the run. Since the departure of Russell Wilson, junior quarterback Danny O’Brien has not been able to hit open receivers to create any type of passing efficiency. The Badgers actually rank dead last in the Big Ten in passing averaging just 169 yards per game (110th in FBS).
As a result of the offensive nightmares, the Badgers have not been able to post scores and pull away from teams like they have in previous years. Wisconsin has won or lost by less than 6 points in 3 of their 4 games this year. The Badgers defense is tough as usual but the offensive concerns have obviously held the team back. If things do not change, it will be hard to imagine Wisconsin truly contending in the conference this year if they do not find a way to move the football and produce the firepower to hang with the top programs like Nebraska.
Speaking of the Cornhuskers, they bring the Big Ten’s top offensive to the grid iron this Saturday night sporting 541 yards of total offense per game. The 3-1 Cornhuskers fell to UCLA 36-30 in week 2 but they have proved they can score points on everyone. Nebraska currently ranks 8th in the FBS averaging 48 points per contest. The Cornhuskers have possessed one of the best rushing attacks in the nation over the last several years with QB Taylor Martinez and tailback Rex Burkhead. This year Martinez has improved greatly with his throwing mechanics and become an efficient passer which has made the offense extremely dangerous with more balance.
Martinez has completed 70% passing this season for 878 yards with 9 scores and just 1 pick. The Cornhuskers offense is still one of the top rushing teams in the nation averaging 317 yards per game (5th in FBS). In fact, running back Ameer Abdullah has racked up the 4th most rushing yards in the conference with 416 yards already this season. It is just now the Cornhuskers have the passing threat to punish defenses that lose focus or put too much emphasis on stopping the run. If Martinez continues to throw the ball well, the Cornhuskers have the offense to make a run at the Big Ten Championship
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Obviously this will be a huge game for both teams since it is the conference opener but perhaps even bigger under the lights in front of a nationally televised audience. I think this will be a physical game as the Badgers defense steps up to the challenge and both teams struggle to score especially early in the game. Take the under 50.5
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