Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers Expert Picks and Betting Odds
Michigan Wolverines vs. Wisconsin Badgers, Saturday September 21, Noon ET
The first game of the Big Ten season for these two conference powers feels particularly huge. Both teams are 2-0, but neither has proved much. Michigan has been underwhelming compared to the massive expectations they faced entering the season and were very lucky to escape with a win against the quirky Army offense. And Wisconsin has looked much more convincing, winning their two games by a combined 110-0 score, but in USF and Central Michigan they haven't exactly played a ferocious schedule. Both teams have had a bye week before this one to tighten up the things that need it, and both know that a loss would be a big blow to any grand ambitions they may have this year. On top of it all, Michigan hasn't won in Madison since 2001, so they are looking to bust a drought as well. This game shapes up as a good one.
Michigan at Wisconsin Betting Storylines
Michigan QB Shea Patterson has been a disappointment through the first two games. His passing has not been effective, and his offense has not been at all intimidating. There are three reasons, though, to think that the story could be different here. First, he reportedly has been dealing with an oblique injury that has limited his throwing, but the bye week has allowed that to be dealt with. Second, the offense has changed dramatically this year under first-year OC Josh Gattis. It has not looked smooth so far, but the extra week off, and some live action video to review and learn from, should mean that we see a much better execution of the new system this time around. And third, the Wisconsin secondary has been hit hard with injuries, allowing for opportunities for Patterson to do some damage. If Patterson is the same guy we have seen in the first two games, then Michigan will lose this game. So, it is up to you to determine how likely an improvement on this front seems to be.
Wisconsin all-world running back Jonathan Taylor has found room to run against the Wolverines in his career. He had 132 yards against Michigan as a freshman and 101 yards last year in an otherwise ugly performance by Wisconsin. But he has not been able to find the endzone in those two games. And despite the near loss against Army last time out, one thing Michigan did well was defend the run - Army focused on it almost exclusively and yet averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. It will be no surprise to the Wolverines that Taylor is at the center of the offense. Wisconsin's ability to establish the run, though, will have a big impact here. And that raises questions about the Wisconsin offensive line. It is a new look unit this year after issues last year. It has looked good for the most part so far but had a few issues against USF. And now it is facing a defensive front that is creative and aggressive. Taylor has been off to a strong start, and Wisconsin QB Jack Coan has been really dangerous, but that offensive line is going to be tested in a big way. If they can't hold up it will be a long day.
The biggest area of concern for Michigan isn't the lack of offensive punch so far. Or the uncharacteristic defensive lapses at times. It's that they just haven't looked sharp so far. They've been sloppy, mistake prone, tentative, and as if they were only going through the motions at times. They've lost five fumbles and drawn too many stupid flags. They have lacked emotion. If they can't shake that off, then there will be real trouble. And assuming that things will be different requires a leap of faith. If they are sharp and focused, then they are the more talented, better team. But that is a big if.
Michigan at Wisconsin Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Wisconsin favored by three points - the standard home-field advantage. That has slid up to 3.5 in several spots . About two-thirds of bets have been on the Badgers, so this line movement is consistent with expectations. The total sits at 44.5, which is down slightly from where it opened in most spots but up from the lowest it fell to in early action.
The Wolverines are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games and 0-6 ATS in their last six games overall. The Badgers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall and 10-3 ATS in their last 13 following a bye, but they are just 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these teams. Michigan is just 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 games against Wisconsin.
Michigan at Wisconsin Predictions and Picks
When the original number was posted, I wanted to wait to see which side the hook fell on before making a decision. This game is this close. With Wisconsin favored by 3.5 now, Michigan gets the edge from a betting perspective because a field goal loss is a betting win, and that makes them the pick. I expect a much better effort from Michigan than we have seen until now, and the Wisconsin offensive line and secondary are both concerns. Wisconsin has been very impressive to date, but that means little on either side of the ball compared to this test. Michigan is the pick.
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