The Wisconsin Badgers (1-2) tries to bounce back from a disappointing loss on national television when they host the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines (4-0) for a Big Ten Conference showdown.
After trampling and covering against its first three opponents, Michigan squeaked past Rutgers 20-13 in its Big Ten opener as 20-point home favorites. The Wolverines are outgaining teams 7.3-4.6 yards per play and grade out as a top-10 offense in several efficiency stats, according to Football Outsiders. But, Michigan hasn’t played as difficult of a schedule thus far as Wisconsin.
The Badgers were defeated last week by Notre Dame 41-13 as 6-point favorites at Soldier Field in Chicago. The game was a lot closer than the final score appears. In fact, Wisconsin had more yards per play than Notre Dame and held the Fighting Irish to just three yards rushing. However, the Badgers came unglued late, allowing a kick return touchdown and two pick-sixes in the fourth quarter.
- Opening Line: Wisconsin -1
- Current Line: Wisconsin -1.5
- Over/Under (O/U): 43.5
- Location: Camp Randall Stadium
- Start Time: Saturday, October 2, 2021, Noon ET
- Last Meeting: November 12, 2020. Wisconsin won 49-11 at Michigan as 7-point road favorites.
This has been a bad spot for each team in their respective coaches’ tenures. For instance, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst were hired in 2015. Over that span, both teams have sub-.500 against the spread (ATS) records vs. ranked opponents and vs. Big Ten play.
Furthermore, Michigan has a losing ATS record as a road underdog and Wisconsin has a losing ATS record as a home favorite since 2015. The Badgers are 3-2 overall and 4-1 ATS vs. the Wolverines since both starting head coaches were hired.
Also, these both play on opposite sides of the total at the same rate. Meaning, Michigan plays more to the Over vs. ranked competition, vs. conference foes, and as a road underdog. While Wisconsin plays more to the Under in conference games, against ranked opponents, and as a home favorite.
Even though nearly two-thirds of the action is on Michigan to cover (according to Pregame.com), the line is creeping towards Wisconsin. But, a slight majority of the cash wagered is on the Badgers so it appears as though the “wiseguys” are favoring Wisconsin.
Wisconsin being favored against an undefeated Michigan team who steamrolled its first three opponents says something. What it tells me is that the oddsmakers aren’t overreacting to what either side has shown thus far. The college football advanced analytic gurus also still say these teams aren’t far apart. For instance, the Wolverines rank only three spots ahead of the Badgers in ESPN’s SP+ ratings. Plus Wisconsin is still 12th in Football Outsiders’ F+ Ratings.
Another reason why I like the Badgers in this spot is I’m skeptical the Wolverines can move the ball on their defense. Last week, Michigan actually played a competent Rutgers defense ran by a defensive head coach and looked bad offensively. For instance, the Wolverines only averaged 2.9 yards per rush vs. Rutgers and had less total yardage with six fewer first downs (21-15).
And while Wisconsin’s record is certainly disappointing, it isn’t because of the defense. The Badgers’ defense ranks sixth in non-garbage time predicted points added (PPA), fourth in non-garbage time success rate, and second in non-garbage time line yards. If Michigan cannot control the line of scrimmage it could spell disaster for an offense that ranks fourth in rushing rate.
Finally, Michigan’s defense is a paper tiger and Wisconsin can find success in this matchup. Ultimately, if the Badgers don’t turn the ball over their offense will be in good shape. But, the Wolverines’ defense has just three takeaways this season and ranks 81st in non-garbage time havoc rate.
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