No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers (6-1 SU, 5-1-1 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (4-3 SU, 4-3 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Week 9 NCAA Football, Saturday, October 29, 2011, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Wis -7.5/OSU +7.5
The 12th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers will try and put the heartbreak of a Hail-Mary loss and a rapid drop in the BCS standings behind them this weekend, but it certainly wont be easy as they have to go back on the road in Big Ten Conference play when they travel to the Horseshoe of Ohio Stadium to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Wisconsin fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in college football last week with a demoralizing, 37-31, loss at Michigan State on a last-second Hail Mary prayer that was answered when it was overturned in the press box by instant replay. Say what you will about the way they lost, but the simple fact is the Badgers did not play a full 60 minutes of solid football, something they will need to do this week when the go into another hostile environment in Columbus.
The Buckeyes havent played since October 17th after taking last week off with a bye, but that game was probably their best game of the whole season this far when the knocked off the previously unbeaten Illinois Fightin Illini in the Horseshoe, 17-7. Running back Daniel Boom Herron returned to action after all of his various suspensions and the Buckeyes rode his fresh legs to an inspired victory over Illinois, as Herron had almost half of the Buckeyes 51 carries in the game and over half of their rushing yards in the win.
The Badgers cannot afford to drop another game if they hope to try and climb back into BCS Bowl game consideration, but an upset by the Buckeyes would be the perfect remedy to help OSU fans forget about their tumultuous 2001 season thus far. Something will have to give this weekend at the Shoe, which should make for some exciting Big Ten Leaders Division action this Saturday night on ESPN.
The oddsmakers out in Las Vegas are expecting a bounce back game for the Badgers, setting the opening point spread for this contest with Wisconsin as 7.5-point favorites on the road in the Big Ten. There are even a few offshore sportsbooks listing the Badgers as 8-point favorites on their boards, so the touchdown-plus advantage seems to be holding after the first wave of wagering at the betting window.
As of press time the over/under total has yet to be released.
Offensively this game is sure two feature two punishing running games, but its the passing games where these two schools differ drastically and where the advantage most likely will be gained.
Wisconsin has five 6-foot-7 and 330-pound offensive lineman and the tag-team of Montee Ball and James White fueling their running game, and when they get rolling it has amounted to 252.1 yards per game rushing for the 8th-best mark in NCAA football.
Ohio State also has a mammoth offensive line, and now with the return of Herron to combo with freshman quarterback Braxton Miller out of the backfield, the Buckeyes will likely be closer to the 211 yards a game they had against Illinois (4.1 ypc) then the 175 yards per game they have averaged through all seven weeks combined (42nd in NCAA).
Additionally, both of these teams are the weakest defensively against the run. Wisconsin is 35th allowing 121.1 yards a game, while the Buckeyes are 27th allowing 116.6 per contest, so at least on paper it would appear that both teams should be able to move the rock on the ground.
Its when the defense forces passing situations that these teams separate themselves.
Wisconsin with Russell Wilson at quarterback throwing to Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis on the flank, and Ball and White out of the backfield, is as dangerous in the passing game as they are running it (259.6 ypg 36th). Wilsons accuracy (73 percent) in play action can be deadly, as evidenced by the Badgers 47.4 points per game average (5th).
When Ohio State is forced to throw the results are sometimes brutal, in fact one could argue that the Buckeyes offense is so bad throwing it that they have made themselves one-dimensional. Miller is not an accomplished passer in the college game yet, and the fact that the Buckeyes only called four passing plays against the Illini (only completed one) is a strong indication of how limited they are on offense in third-and-long situations.
Expect the Badgers defense to stack the box and force Miller to execute passing plays on the perimeter and over the top on Saturday night. Meanwhile, you can expect the Buckeyes defense to play it a little more straight up against the run-pass attack of the Badgers, something they have done rather well overall this season as the 13th-ranked defensive unit in points allowed in the NCAA (16.3 ppg).
The Badgers snapped a three-game winning streak by the Buckeyes in the head-to-head series last season, in a 31-18 victory in Madison when the then Terrelle Pryor-led Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 in the country. You need to go back to the 2004 season (five games) to find the last time the Badgers beat the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe, a 24-13 victory as 3.5-point underdogs.
All in all the underdog has been barking loud in the head-to-head series, going 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings. The home team has protected its turf in the series too, going 5-2 ATS in the last seven games.
With an offense that is scoring 47 points a game its logical that most of the over/under betting trends for the Badgers point toward an over bet. However, the under is 6-2-1 in the last nine meetings between these two, and its also 5-1 in the Buckeyes last six games at the Shoe and 4-1 in their last five Big Ten games.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Wisconsin will bounce back after a terrible loss last week, but Im not so sure they are going to do it by more than a touchdown. Ohio States defense is good, and should be able to keep them in the game especially since its at home. Its the Buckeyes offense that wont be able to keep up. Ohio State will put another big scare into the Badgers, but too much offense in the fourth quarter will likely make it a cover for the Badgers in my opinion. There are much better games on the board this weekend, but if you must bet on this game, take Wisconsin minus the points.
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