No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (11-2 SU, 7-5-1 ATS) vs. No. 5 Oregon Ducks (11-2 SU, 6-5-2 ATS), 5:00 p.m. EST, Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, Monday, January 2, 2012, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif., TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Wis +6/OR -6
Over/Under Total: 72
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Two of the countrys best two-loss teams that were a mere handful of plays away from playing in the BCS Championship game will instead have to settle for playing in the Granddaddy of all of the bowl games against each other, when the 5th-ranked Oregon Ducks take on the 8th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 2nd.
Oregon will be making their third straight BCS bowl appearance, but after going 0-2 in the first two, including a loss to Auburn in last years BCS title game, the Ducks will have to find a way to finally win a BCS game in order to silence the critics who say they cant win the big games.
Oregon notched its third straight PAC-12 title and another trip to Pasadena with a, 49-31, victory over UCLA in the first-ever PAC-12 Championship game back on December 2nd. Running back LaMichael James ran for 219 yards and three touchdowns and the Ducks defense forced four UCLA turnovers to seal the BCS bid for the Ducks.
But as close as the Ducks were to a shot at the BCS Championship game, the Badgers were literally two plays away from the same scenario. A hail mary pass turned touchdown by replay against Michigan State and a last-second bomb in a four-point loss at Ohio State cost Wisconsin a shot at an undefeated season and a chance at the crystal ball back at the end of October.
Wisconsin rebounded very well though, winning their final five games of the season in order to get their second consecutive trip to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl. The fifth win of that string was the biggest one, a narrow 42-39 victory over Michigan State in the rematch that gave the Badgers the first-ever Big Ten Conference Championship game trophy.
Now these two teams will face off in the Rose Bowl with reputations at stake, in what looks like potentially one of the highest scoring and most exciting bowl games on the entire card this postseason.
Oddsmakers are expecting a shootout, listing the Ducks as early 6-point favorites in the game with an over/under total opening at a whopping 72. With the point spread and total open for a little over a week already, there has yet to be any significant line movement in either direction.
The opening total is set so high because this game features two of the top offenses in the nation.
Oregon has speed to burn on offense, which will be a huge challenge for the Badgers defense. QB Darron Thomas is great at reading the speed option and giving the ball to James for large chunks of yards on the ground. When James gets tired, the Ducks bring in Kenjon Barner (909 yards, 11 TD) and they dont miss a step in the run game (296 ypg 5th).
But Thomas also has 30 touchdown throws when defenses cheat to stop the run, with a solid tight end (David Paulson 6 TD) and two speedy receivers in freshman DeAnthony Thomas (9 TD) and Lavasier Tuinei (8 TD). When you add it all up, the Ducks score quickly and in bunches (46.2 ppg 3rd in NCAA).
If there is a team that can hang with the Ducks high-powered offense, it might be Wisconsin.
The Badgers also have a powerful running game with Heisman candidate Montee Ball (1,759 yards, 38 TD) running behind a mammoth offensive line for 237 yards a game (10th). Wisconsin can also go two-deep with James White spelling Ball at times throughout the game without missing a beat.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has enjoyed a great season (2,800 yards, 72 %, 31 TD) throwing the ball off of play action, with his favorite target being Nick Toon on the perimeter. When you add up all of the Badgers numbers you get 44.8 points per game, the 4th highest tally in the NCAA this season.
The defenses that will try and contain these offenses will have their hands full. Wisconsin has had issues stopping the run at times this season (138 ypg allowed 47th), and they have not faced the speed and tempo the Ducks will throw at them in the Rose Bowl. On the other sideline the Ducks defense is also prone to giving up big chunks of yardage (382 ypg 60th), so this game could quickly turn into a track meet if the offenses get their way.
Oregon and Wisconsin have met twice before when the two schools scheduled a home-and-home series in the early 2000s. As expected, home field was huge as the Badgers won 27-23 at home in Madison in 2000, but the Ducks turned the tables next year in Eugene, 31-28. Both games went over the closing total, but at 48.5 (in 2000) and 49 (2001) those total werent even close to the number these two will be chasing on January 2nd.
A quick look at the betting trends shows that the Badgers have done well in past bowl games (5-2 ATS) in neutral site games as an underdog (5-2 ATS). In fact, Wisconsin is 6-1 ATS in their last seven bowl games as the listed underdog (of 3.5 to 10 points).
Oregon is not as strong in neutral site games (2-5 ATS), or in bowl games as the favorite (1-4 ATS).
It may be hard to imagine, but the under might turn into the best trend play on the board. The under is 5-1 in Wisconsins last six bowl games, 4-1 in their last five games against a PAC-12 opponent and 6-2 in their last eight neutral site games. The under is also 5-1 in Oregons last six bowl games, 5-2 in the last seven neutral site games and a perfect 5-0 in the last five bowl games as a favorite.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: At first glance I dont see how either team is going to stop the other one in this game. But thats also everyone elses take on this game and thats simply too easy. So Im going to play a trend and go against the public here with a play on the under. A small play. Im taking the under of 72.
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