Big 10 Football
Championship Pick with Analysis
These aren't quite the circumstances any one was hoping for in the Big 10 Championship game this year. Nebraska deserves to be here, but they are still lacking in a lot of areas as seen in their road games this year. On the other end, Wisconsin was basically given the Leaders division with a 4-4 record. Because Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for postseason play, the Badgers only shot at not making the title game was if they threw away their season. Sure, Purdue had their moments, but they never really looked like a Championship team. That leaves a team that has lost three of their last four games (albeit all losses came in overtime) playing in the Big 10 Championship. And even then, Nebraska isn't a runaway favorite. The Cornhuskers are only 3-point favorites because they struggled away from home and because they only beat the Badgers by three points earlier this year at home.
Nebraska was the better team in that game even after being down by 17 points in the first half. They ended up outgaining Wisconsin by almost 150 yards even with Joel Stave at QB. The Badgers now have Curt Phillips at the helm who has only two career starts. It's hard to gauge what he can do as those games were against Ohio State and Penn State. The Cornhuskers held Stave to a 52 percent completion percentage and only one TD. They also stopped Montee Ball to 90 yards on 32 yards, although he still got three touchdowns. If Ball is stopped for 2.8 yards per carry again, it will be very hard for Wisconsin to compete this time around.
The main advantage for the Badgers in that game was wide receiver Jared Abbrederis who had seven grabs for 142 yards and a TD. With Nebraska focused on the run game, Abbrederis found room deep down the field. Defenses have figured out what Wisconsin likes to do and have stopped these long balls from happening as of late. Abbrederis has not surpassed 68 yards in six straight games after going for 100 yards in three straight.
As for the Cornhuskers, they ran right through the Badgers defense last time around. They finished with 259 yards and 5.6 yards per carry as a team. Taylor Martinez led the way with 107 yards and a TD. When Nebraska is in trouble, he is usually the one to bail them out. He also had 181 passing yards and two TDs. Rex Burkhead (86 yards) and Ameer Abdullah (70 yards) will once again see a heavy load out of the back field. After missing four straight games, Burkhead returned for the Iowa contest last weekend and ran for 69 yards and a TD. We know Martinez can carry the offense, but will the Nebraska defense hold up its end away from home? That is one of the questions bettors are asking themselves before making a move on the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska is 3-0-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record while Wisconsin is 2-5 ATS in their last seven games following a ATS loss. Wisconsin covered as 11-point underdogs in their previous matchup while the over hit by four points. The under is 8-0 in the Cornhuskers last eight neutral site games while the over is 4-1 in the Badgers last five games vs. a team with a winning record.
Anytime you can get points with an underdog that has a great chance to win a game outright you have to grab them. That is the case here with the Badgers. Same season revenge is always a nice motivating factor as well. Wisconsin was up by 17 last time around but couldn't put a full 60 minutes of football together. We'd expect the full 60 minutes this time. Our model likes Wisconsin by a field goal when using season to date stats and has Wisky losing by just one when using only data from the last 5 games. Note that both teams have similar offensive yards per point numbers offensively but it's the Badgers with the better defensive number by 3 points (17).
Also note that while you can't predict turnovers, a teams turnover margin is a pretty good indicator of the team as a whole. Just take a glance at the teams at the top of the turnover margin list and then take a look at the teams at the bottom. Then take a look at their records. At any rate, Nebraska is -8 on the year which places them near the bottom of the list of 124 teams. Wisconsin is +1. Roll it all together and we like our chances with the Badgers in this one. Wisconsin +3