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WISCONSIN AT IOWA

10/18/08

Wisconsin travels to Ames, Iowa to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in a Big 10 conference game this Saturday.


The Big 10 has not been kind to the 3-3 Badgers this year. They started the year out going 3-0 in non-conference play, including a huge road win on national TV against the Fresno St. Bulldogs, and then had a well placed bye to get ready for the start of conference play. And probably no tougher task in the Big 10 then to have to start off with Michigan, Ohio St and Penn St back to back to back. The good thing is that they had 2 of those opponents at home, but it didnt matter as they dropped all 3 games to go to 0-3 in the conference and ruin any hopes of a Big 10 title. They probably should have won the first two games against Michigan and Ohio St. In the Michigan game they were up 19-0 at the half, but they gave up 27 2nd half points, including 20 in the 4th Q, to fall behind by 8. A missed 2 pt conversion following a Badger TD with just seconds remaining sealed their fate as they lost a close one 27-25. In the Ohio St game, Wisconsin held a 4 pt lead with just 6:30 left in the game, but they let the Buckeyes drive 80 yds to take a 20-17 lead with just a minute to play. In the Penn St game they were just plain out-matched, so I wont even talk about that one. But the bottom line is, they could have easily won two of those games and been 5-1 going into this match-up with Iowa.

The Badgers are led by QB Allan Evridge, who has been pretty mediocre at best. He has completed just 53.8% of his attempts for 949 yds and 5 TDs, but he has also thrown 5 picks. Four of those INTs have been in the last 3 games. In fact, turnovers have been a big part of their problem lately considering that they turned the ball over 10 times in those 3 losses. The Badgers like to throw to the tight end and, as a result, TE Travis Beckum leads the receiving corps with 17 receptions for 207 yds and fellow TE Garrett Graham leads in TDs with 3, to go along with his 12 receptions for 177 yds. In fact, the two TEs are often used in tandem on the same play. In addition, WRs David Gilreath and Kyle Jeffereson have combined for 26 receptions for 338 yds and a TD.


Where Wisconsin excels though is in the running game where PJ Hill leads the attack with 570 yds and 5 TDs, and a 4.6 YPC average. Also contributing to the ground game are John Clay (303 yds, 4 TDs, 6.2 YPC) and Zach Brown (185 yds, 2 TDs, 5.3 YPC). As a team they rank 2nd in the Big 10 with 200 yds rushing per game. Of course it helps to run behind an offensive line full of 300 pounders.

 

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The defense boasts 9 returning starters from a unit that ranked 38th overall in the nation last year. This year they are allowing opposing QBs to complete just 54% of their attempts for right at 200 yds per game on average, and have allowed just 5 passing TDs in 6 games, with 8 INTs to their credit. Their rushing defense has been victimized a bit as they are giving up around 120 yds per game and an average carry of 3.75 yds, plus they have allowed 10 rushing TDs.

The 4-3 Iowa Hawkeyes have followed a similar road as the Badgers this year. Their 4 wins have come against pretty easy competition, but they have lost their 3 toughest match-ups against Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Michigan St. The 3 losses have been by a total of just 9 pts though so, like Wisconsin, they could have been coming into this game in much better shape record-wise. Turnovers have plagued Iowa also as they have turned the ball over 8 times in their last 2 losses. They are coming off of a big 45-9 road win at Indiana though, where they didnt have a single turnover, so they do come in having a little momentum.

Iowa started off the year utilizing the QB tandem of Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi fairly equally for the first 4 games of the season. But the nod has gone to Ricky Stanzi in the last 3 games. As the lone starter, Stanzi has gone just 1-2 but he has completed 66% of his attempts for 580 yds, 4 TDs and 2 INTs. Overall he has completed 64% of his attempts for 1006 yds, 7 TDs and 4 INTs. Hes got 3 solid targets in WRs Andy Brodell (24 rec. for 373 yds and 3 TDs) and Darrell Johnson-Koulianos (21 rec. for 274 yds and 1 TD), and in big TE Brandon Myers (20 rec. for 266 yds and 3 TDs). RB Shonn Greene is a workhorse at running back as he has amassed 152 carries for 937 yds and 6 TDs already, good enough to rank 6th nationally in total rushing yardage. Freshman RB Jewel Hampton has surprised a little by chipping in 52 carries for 268 yds and 5 TDs himself. The offensive line can be thanked for much of the success as it is a pretty veteran unit that has returned all 5 starters from last year and includes lots of experience with 3 Jrs. and a Sr. Overall a very balanced offense with 1313 yards and 14 TDs on the ground, and 1399 yards and 9 TDs through the air.


The Iowa defensive unit returns just 5 starters from last years group that ranked 36th nationally (24th vs the rush, 62nd vs the pass). This year they are only giving up a little over 10 pts per game, but if you throw out the patsies then its more like 19.5.

Actually, if you look at the offensive and defensive statistics within the Big 10, Iowa and Wisconsin are extremely similar in most categories. Both teams have played several very close games this year and both teams have the defense to keep them in most games. The last 2 meetings between the two have been decided by 4 pts or less and both have been Badger wins. Also, the under is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings between these teams. When you are getting 4 pts, unders are a good thing because it means less scoring. The ATS record for Wisconsin is not pretty lately as they are just 1-7 ATS in their last 8 road games, and 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games overall. But Wisconsin is 4-0 SU and ATS in their last 4 games following a 3 game losing streak. They are 5-2 ATS their last 7 games after a loss as an underdog. I dont know if this year is an anomaly or what, but prior to this year they were 12-3 SU against conference opponents. This team returned 9 starters on both sides of the ball. They have obviously not been playing up to their capabilities. Two of those Big 10 games could have been wins, and probably should have. I cant believe they wont turn this around. The toughest part of their schedule is behind them and I think we are getting a lot of value here with the Badgers getting 4 pts.


If they had been able to hold on against Michigan and Ohio St, they would likely be the 4 pt favorites here. The Hawkeyes are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 roles as home favorite. They are just 4-13 ATS in their last 17 roles as a favorite overall. They are 6-10 ATS in their last 16 games vs conference opponents. And they are 4-6 ATS their last 10 home games vs a conference opponent. I think Wisconsin can certainly keep this game within 4 pts, if not have a chance for the SU win. This team has the tools to win out as the toughest games are behind them. A 9-3 record would no doubt qualify them for a decent bowl game so they certainly have something left to shoot for. Wisconsin +4.

 

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