Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Wisconsin Badgers Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 11/12/2014
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Wisconsin Badgers, Saturday Nov.15, 3:30 p.m. ET
There is only one team left in the Big Ten that can spoil the party for the Buckeyes and potentially grab a playoff spot - though it is far from guaranteed that any team from the lousy conference will be among the final four. That team, improbably, is Nebraska. They are 8-1 and could face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. They have to get there first, though, and that means they need to beat Wisconsin and Minnesota - the two teams tied with the Huskers atop the Big Ten West at 4-1 - in the next two weeks.
By itself, then, this game means very little. For the sake of the hopes of the conference, though - or at least for the hopes of a little drama for the conference championship game - it is a big one.
Nebraska at Wisconsin Betting Storylines
Nebraska needs this win for one reason above all others - to begin to legitimize their record. Up to this point they have played a truly laughable schedule. The only formidable opponent they have faced is Michigan State, and they lost that one. Beyond that they have just been a playground bully, beating up on weaklings and taking their lunch money. Miami and Rutgers count as their best wins. As it stands, this team at one loss is not nearly as impressive as several two-loss teams. Wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio State would definitely help. Really dominant wins would be even better.
To talk about the Huskers you have to start with running back Ameer Abdullah. He's arguably the best back in the country, but he is far from at his best now. He was banged up two games back against Rutgers - reportedly a sprained MCL. He tried to play last week, but six carries for just one yard was a clear sign that he wasn't ready. Head coach Bo Pelini was notably less optimistic in his press conference this week about the health of Abdullah than he was last week - though he did say he expected Abdullah to be ready. A guy who already has four 200+ yard games this season would obviously be a big asset to have in the lineup for the Huskers, so watching his health during the week will be key in handicapping this one. Wisconsin has had an elite defense this year, so scoring could be tough for Nebraska to do - especially without their star.
While the Huskers may be without their running back for this one, Wisconsin has been essentially without a quarterback all year. They have made due with some combination of Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, but they have gotten little from either one. Their 153 passing yards per game is among the worst in the country, and they just don't frighten defenses through the air. That puts all of the pressure on the run game. So far that has worked well - they are fifth in the country in rushing yards. Melvin Gordon is an absolute beast, and Corey Clement could eclipse 1,000 yards this year as well. Nebraska has a Top 20 rush defense, though they haven't faced a guy like Gordon. The absence of a passing threat, though, could allow the Huskers to be more aggressive against the run. That could limit the effectiveness of Wisconsin to some extent. It's important to note that the one conference game that Wisconsin has lost - against Northwestern - has featured by far the lowest running advantage the team had had. They have outgained opponents on the ground by at least 222 yards in their four conference wins, but they edged Northwestern by just 81 in the loss.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Wisconsin Badgers NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Wisconsin favored by 4.5 points, and that has quickly leapt up to six points . Action has essentially been split between the two squads, so the quick move is a good sign that sharp money hit the Badgers early. Given the balanced action, it would be surprising if the game hit the key number of seven. The total opened at 55.5 and quickly leapt to 57 in early action.
The Huskers are 6-0 ATS in their last six road games and 4-0 ATS in their last four against teams with winning home records. The Badgers are 4-0 ATS in their last four home teams against teams with winning road records. The teams haven't met since the 70-31 massacre by the Badgers in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game - a contest in which Wisconsin scored eight times on the ground.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Wisconsin Badgers Expert Predictions and Picks
I don't love either of these teams, and I have a real issue with Nebraska's schedule. I also am very nervous about the status of Abdullah and what his absence would mean. Still, I can't help but feel like Wisconsin is giving up too many points here. They've have plenty of blowout wins this year, but their schedule has not been much better than Nebraska's, so it proves little. I think Nebraska can at least keep it close, so they are the pick at this price.
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