Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 12/2/2014
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers, Saturday Dec. 6, 8 p.m. ET
For Ohio State, the stakes are simple here. They need to win to give themselves a shot at the inaugural College Football Playoff. A win does not guarantee them a berth, but a loss would absolutely keep them out. It's a win-and-you're-maybe-in scenario. For the Badgers, then, things are just as simple - end your season on a high note and play spoiler or cap an inconsistent season with a disappointing end. Wisconsin has won the first two of the three Big Ten Championships that have been played, so they certainly know how to perform in this game.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Betting Storylines
No one, including Cardale Jones himself, could have possibly imagined at the start of the season that the chances of the Buckeyes both to win a conference championship and potentially to make the playoff would rest on the shoulders of the redshirt sophomore. His is the latest twist in what has been a truly bizarre season at quarterback, though. Terrelle Pryor was a Heisman favorite heading into the season, but an early injury ended that. J.T. Barrett stepped in with minimal expectations. All he did was set records and build a Heisman campaign of his own - one that will very likely see him invited to New York. But then he was hurt in the regular-season finale against hated Michigan, and a shattered ankle ensures that his season is over. It's hard to think of another season when a guy has had to step in late to fill the shoes of two likely Heisman finalists, but here we are.
To be kind, Jones has limited experience. In his second year of action he has completed just 10 of 17 passes - a noted increase over the 1 of 2 of last year. Where he has been dangerous in his limited action, though, is on his feet. He has rushed 26 times for 206 yards - and impressive 7.9 yards per carry average. Jones faces an almost impossible amount of pressure in this game. There are two assets he has going for him, though. First, he has been around the team a long time. He enrolled early in January of 2012, so he is about to complete his third full calendar year with the team. He is comfortable with the system and the expectations, and he has been well groomed - though definitely not game-hardened. Second, the remarkable rise of Barrett this year shows that this coaching staff is capable of quickly grooming a starter to be ready.
As the coaching carousel in college football starts to spin out of control this time of year, the potential for a distraction exists on both sides of the field. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has done a very good job in his time with the Badgers, and his name has been floated around in other positions that are open or could be. I don't really see him moving on, but the questions will persist. On the other side, Urban Meyer obviously isn't going anywhere, but his offensive coordinator and quarterback coach could be. Tom Herman is only 39, but he has done a remarkable job in tough circumstances this year, and he will be a highly-coveted coaching prospect - if he decides the time is right to lead his own program. Neither situation will ultimately decide this game, but it could be a factor to consider if you see this as a close decision.
Ohio State will have an emotional rallying point in this one. Defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge, who walked on with the team this year after three years on the wrestling team and was key in game preparation and scout team activities, went missing last weekend and was found to have committed suicide on Sunday. The team will surely be playing for him.
If a game comes down to one player -- aside from Cardale Jones - it would be, in this case, Melvin Gordon. The all-World running back has 2,260 yards and 29 touchdowns - video game numbers. He has had at least 122 yards in each game since Week 2 and more than 220 three times in his last four games. He's a machine. He stacks up against an Ohio State defense that has been considerably better against the pass than the run this year. Indiana's Tevin Coleman torched them for 228 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago, and Drake Johnson was able to have some good success for Michigan last week behind a brutally ineffective offensive line before a knee injury ended his day. If the Buckeyes can't find a way to get much better against the run in a hurry then they will be in some trouble here.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
Wisconsin is favored by four points here - something that would not be the case if J.T. Barrett could walk. They have drawn nearly two-thirds of bets, but it is unlikely that the line will move dramatically. The total opened at 55.
The underdog is 3-0-1 ATS the last four times these two foes have met. The Badgers are 1-5 ATS in their last six neutral-site games. Ohio State has gone "over" the total in 12 of their last 13 against teams with winning records.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Expert Predictions and Picks
Wisconsin is the popular pick here - drawing a solid majority of the action in this game. It makes sense that the public would be attracted to them given Jones, Gordon, and the rest of the storylines. If Barrett were here, though, Ohio State would have been a solid and popular favorite, so the wise move here is to resist panicking and trust in the Buckeyes taking points. They have better overall talent, and much better overall coaching, and they are going to be ready. The Buckeyes are the pick.
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