Time: 2:30 PM (CT), Big Ten Network
Spread: WISC -14.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Wisconsin is facing a must-win situation if it wants to have hope of securing a spot in the BCS playoffs. The Badgers are right on the fringe with a No. 12 ranking, and even a win today will still need the committee to prefer the Badgers over the Big 12 winner.
The quest begins with hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 2:30 (Central) on the Big Ten Network. College football oddsmakers have set the line 14.5 points in favor of Wisconsin, who has won five-straight games and currently boasts a 6-2 Conference record to sit atop the Big Ten West division.
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The Badgers have only lost two games this season, and both were semi-predictable losses to Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State. But by and large, this has been a huge success for the Badgers, and putting the caps on it with a big win today could help Wisconsin propel itself to bigger successes still.
Wisconsin has largely gone with what has always worked for the program: Its rush game. The Badgers got a 1,000 yard season out of Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale and Braderick Shaw both rushed for another 451 and 375 yards, respectively. Wisconsin is averaging 4.2 yards per carry with 22 rushing TDs on the season.
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They rank No. 44 in the nation in rushing yardage at 200.7 yards per game, which offsets an ineffective pass offense that ranks near the bottom of FBS teams at No. 103 and 182.1 yards per game. The result is a middling offense that produces 28.3 points per game, but that has been enough with a top defense that allows just 13.4 points per game (No. 5 in the nation).
Wisconsin has allowed more than 20 points just twice this season, and that more or less accounts for the low betting total of 43 points set by college football oddsmakers at 5dimes. Minnesota is no pushover, however, and the Gophers average 31.5 points per game (No. 51) with a strong rush offense of its own that generates 191.7 yards per game.
Like Wisconsin, the Gophers do not get a lot from its pass offense (179.1 yards per game), but the key to Minnesota’s success also has been a relatively strong defense that allows just 22.2 points per game (no. 27).
Minnesota’s three losses this season have come to Nebraska, Penn State and Iowa—two of the three being ranked clubs still at this juncture of the season, and Iowa being a team that can hardly be ruled out to win “on any given day,” despite its struggles this season.
Minnesota has not knocked off a ranked opponent all season, however, and Wisconsin should be able to rally to win a game that most expect it to. What will be of more intrigue, perhaps, is whether the Badgers can cover the spread and win big enough to impress selection committees to give it the bid for the BCS playoffs.
That is what is on the line for the Badgers, while Minnesota is simply looking to improve its Bowl standing after posting a 5-3 conference record. The Gophers had a good season, but the Big Ten is a tough battle ground and Minnesota is not quite on that elite tier of teams that includes Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
The Gophers basically are on the level of Iowa and Northwestern, as “pretenders,” howsoever rewarding that may be for a program that was not expected to be a contender at any rate.
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