Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers, Saturday Nov. 18, Noon ET
This game is just massive for both teams. Wisconsin sits fifth in the College Football Playoff, and with two ACC teams ahead of them they have a very good chance of moving up into the crucial top four spots if they win out. A 13-0 Big Ten champion would not be left in the cold this year. Michigan is not going to be a playoff team, and they don't control their own destiny, but their chances of a berth in the conference championship game - and a rematch with Wisconsin - requires wins against the Badgers and Buckeyes in their final two and a lot of help. More significantly, after a season that has had some real frustrations and setbacks, Michigan needs to prove that they are a viable team that can close strong. There is a whole lot of pride on the line here in Madison.
Michigan at Wisconsin Betting Storylines
For Michigan the biggest challenge all year has been at quarterback. Current starter Brandon Peters is the third option they have tried. Wilton Speight was injured. John O'Korn was ineffective. And Peters, who is new to starting, has been the best they have had - but hasn't exactly carried the team on his shoulders. The team just wasn't going to beat Penn State, but better QB play against Michigan State would have this team at one loss and in control of their destiny. The team has done a fairly good job of minimizing what is needed from Peters, and he has done what is needed well. But this is the biggest stage he has played on by far, so we don't really know how he will respond. To add to the complication of the situation, Michigan has clearly been playing with a limited playbook the last few weeks. They haven't needed to do too much given the opponents, and they clearly haven't wanted to put their A Material on tape for Wisconsin and Ohio State to see.
So, what has Peters been sitting on? And can he execute it? His receivers are young and not reliable at this point, but he has developed excellent chemistry with tight ends, and Jim Harbaugh certainly can be creative with that position, so things could get very interesting. Wisconsin's defense was spectacular against Iowa, though - the same Iowa team that had ripped Ohio State apart a week earlier - so even the best tricks might not be enough for Peters and the guys in blue.
Wisconsin has to play against a potent Michigan defense. The Wolverines are tops in the country on third downs, have a strong secondary and a tremendous defensive line, and blitz relentlessly. The two teams that have found ways to exploit that defense, though, have beaten Michigan. Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor is a stellar running back, but he has had some fumbling issues. QB Alex Hornibrook is far less inspiring at his position. Can they do enough to find holes in this defense like Michigan State and especially Penn State did? Or will they struggle like every other Michigan opponent has? This is the matchup that ultimately will define how this game turns out.
Michigan at Wisconsin Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Wisconsin favored by 10 points, but that clearly wasn't a good number. It fell quickly to 7.5 where it seems fairly stable . A small majority of bets have been on the Wolverines, so it is possible we will see the key number of seven. The total opened at 41 and has since fallen to 39.
Here's an odd disparity - Michigan is an ugly 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven against teams with winning records but a strong 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine road games against teams with winning home records. The Badgers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven in November, but they are just 1-4 ATS in their last five home games against teams with winning road records.
Michigan at Wisconsin Predictions and Picks
If you have read anything I have written over the last decade or more then you know that I struggle to be objective about Michigan. I bleed Maize and Blue. I'm not fooling myself this year, though - this team has gotten exactly what they deserved. They have been a different team under Peters, though, and have been playing with renewed focus since that beatdown by the Nittany Lions. They are the second-best team here right now, but given the defensive strength and the relative offensive confidence 7.5 points feels like too many to give them. Michigan is the play - not necessarily to win straight up but to cover at this number.
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