Expert NCAA Football Picks: Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines
Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines, Saturday Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. ET
Both of these teams entered the season with serious Playoff ambitions. And both teams suffered frustrating setbacks - Michigan fell short in their opener against currently-unbeaten Notre Dame, and Wisconsin lost a stunner to BYU while favored by more than three touchdowns. The playoff is still a possibility for both squads, but it won't be with a loss in this game, so the stakes are extremely high in this one. It doesn't get any better than this kind of game in the first half of October. This is Big Ten football at the finest, and it's being played under the lights to add some extra spectacle to the affair.
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Wisconsin at Michigan Betting Storylines
Michigan lost by only a touchdown at Notre Dame in that opener. But they were awful. The defense was far from sharp in the first half, and the offense never got rolling. They came into the season with seriously high expectations, and it was a dud of a game. Since then it has been like they have gone into an extended and belated preseason, and they have taken care of business against a weak schedule. They have scored at least 42 to beat up on four weak opponents. And while they weren't great against Northwestern, they came out ahead when it mattered by really tightening the screws in the second half. Their defense sits No. 1 nationally in both total yards and passing yards, and that is despite dealing with a lot of injuries up front that has meant we have never seen their ideal defensive line. And while the offense hasn't been as explosive as many out there, it is a very different unit under Shea Patterson than it has been over the last several years, and they are running the ball solidly as well. The offensive line is still a concern, though less of one than it was after the first game and less than it has been over the last two or three years, but this is a team moving in the right direction. But this game is the first of a gauntlet that will define their season - they play at big rival Michigan State next week then after a bye they host Penn State. They are capable of running that table, but they need to be the best they have been in a couple of years, and that starts here.
This is not the Wisconsin team that we have come to expect over the last couple of years. They are still running the ball like crazy, and Jonathan Taylor is an absolute freakish stud. But they are really struggling to pass the ball, sitting a dismal 102nd in the country in passing yards. And while the defense hasn't been completely awful, it is a far cry from what it has been, and there are definitely vulnerabilities. The secondary has particularly been a concern - Nebraska, which has barely been a college-level team this year, threw for 407 yards against the Badgers last week. The Wolverines have not had a ton of success with the deep ball yet this year, but they haven't focused on it, either. There is plenty of talent available, though, and Patterson has had more time behind the line in recent weeks. You can be sure that the game plan will be looking to pick on this secondary. And the more Michigan can do that, the more likely they will win. Right now a big part of the problem for Wisconsin is that they are last in the league in sacks and have really struggled to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. Michigan's offensive line is much stronger in pass protection than they are against the run, so the matchup doesn't help the Badgers.
Wisconsin at Michigan Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Michigan favored by 6.5. It quickly moved through the key number of seven, climbed as high as 9.5, and has settled widely at 8.5 . Almost two-thirds of bets have been on Wisconsin, so the line could move down slightly - though the movement as it stands suggests that sharp money is on the Wolverines. The total opened at 48 and can be found now as low as 46.
Wisconsin is just 1-4 ATS in their last five overall, but they are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 road games and 7-0 ATS in their last seven road games against teams with winning road records. Michigan is 5-1 ATS in their last six at home and 5-2 ATS in their last seven conference games. Big opponents have been an issue for Michigan throughout the Harbaugh era, though, and they are just 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 against teams with winning records.
Wisconsin at Michigan Predictions and Picks
I like Michigan in this one, and not just because I like Michigan as a rule. Their offense matches up well against the Wisconsin defense. And while Taylor will get his yardage, the rest of the offense will struggle to move the ball against a Wolverines defense that is looking really strong again this year. Michigan is the play.
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