Big 10 Football
This isn’t the Big Ten championship everyone wanted to see, or even expected. Of course, neither was last year’s Michigan State-Iowa slugfest. This could be a similar Game between Wisconsin and Penn State with the Badgers a small -1.5 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook for the Game at LUcas Oil Stadium.
These teams haven’t played since 2013, so at least this is something new. Wisconsin has looked like the best team in the West for most of the season with its two losses to Michigan and Ohio State only giving them more respect in the public’s eye. The Badgers beat LSU earlier in the season and have disposed of any other Big Ten competition along the way. They escaped one of the toughest roads in the country with a 3-2 record against MSU, UM, OSU, Iowa and Nebraska in five straight Games.
Things have been a little more questionable for Penn State. The Nittany Lions fell to Pitt in a shootout in the second week of the season and then barely beat Temple the week after. That all culminated in a huge 49-10 loss at Michigan in their Big Ten opener and that happened to be their last loss. With a mostly favorable Schedule the rest of the way (only road Games at Purdue, Indiana, Rutgers), the Lions made it to the title Game, mainly because of a win over Ohio State in which they were slightly outplayed.
But here we are with both teams having a shot to make the College Football Playoff. Given PSU’s loss to Pitt and weaker wins, the Nittany Lions aren’t a lock for the playoff even with a win. However, things look better for the Badgers having their only two losses against top teams.
Both of these teams kind of want to win the same way. Wisconsin will try and ride its defense and running Game the entire way. Penn State has a weaker defense, but also a better passing Game.
The difference may end up being sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley who has 27 touchdowns (six rushing) and only five interceptions on the season. He’s been a spark for this offense that Christian Hackenberg seemed to hold down a year ago. But in addition to him, Saquon Barkley is having a great season with 1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns to his name. However, he has slipped up in recent weeks in part due to some nagging injuries. He didn’t surpass two yards per carry in wins over Indiana and MSU.
against Wisconsin, a much better defense than those two, it will be another tough Game for Barkley. And if Barkley struggles, everything will be on McSorley for this offense. That’s not a bad thing, but a hard thing to bank on against the Badgers.
As for Wisconsin, their strategy isn’t a big secret. They’re going to run the ball a ton behind Corey Clement, who has at least 25 carries and 100 yards in Four straight Games to go with seven touchdowns in that period. Clement has struggled against better run defenses (MSU, UM), but that was early in the year following injury. PSU’s run defense is good, but isn’t considered one of the best.
The Badgers will need Clement to come through because starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook got injured last Game and is day-to-day. While he hasn’t attempted many passes the last few Games, he’s still a better option than Bart Houston. That said, Houston at least has some starts under his belt, namely a win over LSU in the opener.
This Game will come down to what McSorley can do against the Wisconsin defense and usually defenses win out in this situation.
The Nittany Lions are 7-0-1 ATS in their last eight Games and have mostly positive trends from this season. However, they do have a stat of just 3-10-2 ATS in their last 15 on field turf. The Badgers are 6-1-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 4-1-1 ATS in their last six on field turf. The favorite is 8-1 ATS in the last nine meetings between these schools.
Our Pick – When we run this Game through Our model using full season stats, Wisconsin comes up the winner by around a TD. However, if we use only stats from the 2nd half of the season, this Game comes up as a toss up.
Penn State is red hot and on a roll. However, we think the Wisconsin defense could be the difference here. We’re going to lean towards the Badgers here, but it’s not a strong play by any means.
We also think there’s some value with the Under. So………Wisconsin -1.5 and UNDER 46.5