Wisconsin heads to the Rose Bowl for the 3rd straight year where they will take on 11-2 Stanford. The Current line at 5 Dimes Sportsbook has Stanford favored by -6.5 points, pretty much where it has been since it opened, with a total of 47. Stanford is also currently the public favorite, taking in 73% of the action thus far.
The Badgers may only be 8-5, but they have yet to lose a game by more than three points. In addition to that, their last three losses came in overtime. The main thing bettors are looking at is that they didn't have a great win before the Big 10 Championship game, unless you count Utah State at the beginning of the year. Their four conference wins came against schools at the bottom of the standings. However, a 70-31 beat down against Nebraska in the title game changed some perceptions.
As for Stanford, there are not many bad perceptions about them. They have won seven straight games and in the process have beaten four straight ranked teams. Their bad loss came at Washington and the only other time they slipped up was against the current No. 1 team in the nation. They also beat then-ranked No. 2 USC in the third game of the season. The Cardinal play solid defense and have a balanced attack that can control games. Will they be able to take out a power running team without starting defensive tackle Terrence Stephens?
Stanford has held teams in check such as USC (14 points), Oregon (14 points) and UCLA in two straight weeks. Even without Stephens, the Badgers will have plenty of trouble finding the end zone. On the offensive end, the Cardinal will roll with Stepfan Taylor from the start. The senior running back has 302 carries, 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season. He has hit the 100-yard barrier eight times this season, including against his 102-yard effort against the vaunted Notre Dame defense. Freshman QB Kevin Hogan first found action at the beginning of November and has never looked back. In his five games, Hogan has looked great, completing over 70 percent of his passes for eight TDs and only three INTs. Along with that, he can move on his feet and is second on the team with 209 rushing yards.
As mentioned earlier, Wisconsin will play anyone close and that's exactly how this game should be. Their only bad defensive game came at Nebraska in their first matchup of the Big 10 season (allowed 30 points). Since, they have held every offense in check even in losses. The question has been on the offensive end. Curt Phillips has only started three games, but he will be given the go in this game after playing better than any previous QB in his limited time. He's what one would call a game manager. He will hand the ball off plenty in this game, in hopes of keeping Stanford's offense off the field. Montee Ball started the season slow, but is on a rampant pace lately, hitting 100 yards in seven of his last eight games and at least 191 yards in three of his last four. Throw in eight TDs over those four games and he's close to unstoppable. Remember, three of those games were against the top three teams in the conference. He and James White will get plenty of touches against the Cardinal. In the receiving game, expect Jared Abbrederis to get most of the looks as he leads the team in all receiving categories.
Also of note in this game is the coaching change at Wisconsin. Bret Bielema has taken the head coaching job at Arkansas. Normally, this would throw a monkey wrench into the handicapping of a game of this magnitude, but were not so sure that will be the case here. Barry Alvarez, the former Wisconsin coach, who hand picked Bielema as his replacement when he stepped down and became Athletic Director, will coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl.
Here we have a game between one team, Stanford, who has managed to beat the good teams they have faced this year by a TD or less, going up against another team, Wisconsin, who has lost 5 games, 4 of them by a field goal and one by a TD. That one by a TD was an OT loss to Ohio State. They also lost two other OT games. Why should we expect anything but another close game here?
Our numbers agree. Our model predicts a Stanford win by anywhere from 1 to 5 points. Stanford has the edge defensively by a couple of points when we look at yards per point numbers but Wisky isn't far behind. Offensively, they are dead even.
Currently there are +6.5's across the board though we do see one +7. Ultimately, you'd be able to grab +7 on this one, but no guarantee you'll see those +7's. You simply have to watch the board. So we'll put this out there as a play at +6.5 but don't run out and play it right away. A move from +6.5 to +6 we can live with. It's worth waiting to see if you can grab a +7. So, Wisconsin +7 if it shows, otherwise +6.5.