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Rose Bowl Pick

Oregon vs. Wisconsin

1/2/12

Wisconsin squares off against Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl. It's a match up between the losers of the last two Rose Bowls as Wisconsin lost last year to TCU while Oregon lost in 2010 to Ohio State. Oregon opened as a -5.5 favorite at Betonline and was bet up to as high as -6.5 before coming back down to where it sits as of this writing at -5.5. The total is 72.

For Wisconsin, this is a role reversal from a year ago. They were favored by a field goal over TCU and lost 21-19. They had a chance to tie it up in the final minutes but a 2 point conversion failed and it was TCU celebrating as time expired. So close a year ago, the Badgers now find themselves in the rare position of having the chance to do it again and hopefully come out on top this time.

Meanwhile, a year ago, Oregon was playing in the National Championship game, losing to Oregon and now has a chance to end this year with an elusive Rose Bowl win. They won the Rose Bowl once, in 1917!

As we handicap this game, we have to address the strength of schedule. The Ducks played a schedule that was as much as a touchdown more difficult than the Badgers. But it's also important to point out that the schedule was more difficult primarily because of 3 teams that Oregon faced, LSU, USC and Stanford. It's also important to note that Oregon was 1-2 against those 3 teams, losing to LSU and USC while knocking off Stanford.

If we were making a case for Oregon here we'd point out that other than their losses to LSU and USC, no other team was able to come within 14 of the Ducks and that was Arizona State. That includes a big win against Stanford, 53-30.

In making a case for Wisconsin, we'd point to epic battles with Michigan State, one win and one loss with both games going down to the wire and being decided in the final minute.

Other than those games, both of these teams played some weak opponents and they did what you'd expect with those weak opponents, they obliterated them.

The one game that really bothers us for Wisconsin is the 33-29 loss to Ohio State. Ohio State has a very good defense, so the 29 points is a plus. But giving up 33 to Ohio State's offense, and then comparing the Ohio State offense to Oregon's, gives us cause for concern.

But we like the Badgers here. NC State transfer QB Russell Wilson proved to be the missing link to the 2011-2012 Badgers offense. He ended the season as the #2 ranked QB in the nation and threw just 3 interceptions all year while completing almost 73% of his passes. Couple that with Running Back Monte Ball who scored 38 touchdowns this year, making him the nations leading scorer and good for 2nd best in NCAA history.

Not that Oregon can't counter that with QB Darron Thomas who is 22-3 as a starter and RB LaMichael James who led the country in rushing yards per game. Both of these teams are going to get their yards and points and both are going to do that behind fantastic running games. Keep in mind that while these teams have lit up the scoreboard all year, one year ago, the national championship game between Auburn and Oregon featured to prolific offenses and ended with a very modest final of 22-19.

The result here may not be much different. Two teams running the ball, both will have success, which eats up clock and moves the game along quickly. We'd be surprised if this game wasn't up for grabs as we head into the 4th quarter. If that's the case, we always want to be taking points, not laying, in that situation.

Yards per point numbers favor Wisconsin, with a 10.5 on offense and a 17.2 on defense. Oregon's numbers are 11.2 and 16.2. Both very good and of course we can't lose sight of the schedule strength of Oregon. The teams rank near identical in many important stat categories but check the pass defense where Wisky ranks #3 and Oregon #84.

Our score prediction model likes Wisky straight up, 36-33 and our model does take into account that difference in schedule strength. We see both teams having some success with what they want to do offensively. We have it coming down to the wire and decided late. Wisconsin +6 or more. (mostly 5'5's currently but we expect to see some more 6's. Still like Wisky at +3 and higher)

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