The Wisconsin Badgers seemingly snuck into this major bowl game as they travel to Pasadena, CA to take on the Stanford Cardinal (#6) in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers lay a surprise smacking on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Championship game 70-31. Ohio State and Penn State finished the regular season ahead of Wisconsin but they are ineligible this season because of NCAA sanctions. To their credit Wisconsin came out strong and won their spot in this game, in the post-season that is what really makes a difference.
Stanford has had a Cinderella season going 11-2 after getting very little recognition at the outset of the year. Their two losses came earlier in the season to Washington then two weeks later to Notre Dame (#1) 20-13OT. The highlights have been many this season. First, a 21-14 win over then #2 USC; a 27-23 win over Oregon State (#13); a big win over #4 Oregon 17-14OT; and then back-to-back wins over UCLA, the second win for the Pac-12 Championship. Currently Stanford is on a 7 game win streak.
But Wisconsin might be peaking at the right time. They lost their last two regular season games but they lost to Ohio State and Penn State, both in overtime. Then they crushed Nebraska to get here. The strength of the Wisconsin team is their run game which is 12th in the nation. They also boast a tight defense that gives up just 19.1 points per game on average. Their offense scores about 30 points a game but Cardinal score around 28 points a game so this could end up being a low scoring game.
In fact, both teams have tight defenses that on average hold opponents under 20 points. But the defensive edge has to go to Stanford for holding the Oregon Ducks to 14 points since the Ducks averaged 50.8 points per game through the season (Stanford was Oregon’s only loss during the season). Even though each team has about the same average points for and against, as well as nearly the same offensive yardage production, there is no doubt that Stanford did it against much better teams.
Therefore the only reason not to take Stanford to win and cover the spread would be that they have had quite a few games that ended with a spread lower than 7 points. It is hard to figure how Wisconsin compares to teams that Stanford has played but we do know that Stanford’s defense been very adaptive against their opponents’ strengths. Thus it might be possible for this game not to cross the 47 point total and Stanford to still cover the spread. If the score goes over 47 points then Stanford likely hood of covering the spread increases.
It is important to take note that while Stanford has consistently been able to score TDs with their run or passing game, Wisconsin is nearly one dimensional scoring the overwhelming majority of their TDs on the ground. It is never easy to consistently win when your team is that so one-sided, especially at the top levels. The best chance Wisconsin has of beating Stanford is to confuse freshman QB Kevin Hogan who took the starting job late in the season. Hogan won the last for regular season games against ranked opponents and won the Pac-12 championship game MVP award. But, he is admittedly still new to the Stanford system and that may be an opening that Wisconsin can exploit.
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