Wisconsin should be in an ornery mood in its home opener after losing to Alabama last week, but that does not mean the Badgers will cover vs. Miami-Ohio Saturday.
What looks like a mismatch on the field just might turn out to be close enough for the underdogs to cover the enormous point spread Saturday when those Miami-Ohio RedHawks (1-0, 1-0 ATS) from the MAC pay a visit to the Wisconsin Badgers (0-1, 0-1 ATS) out of the Big Ten at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI at 12:00 Noon ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Miami-Ohio as a humongous road underdog for this contest with the current line at +32 with odds of -106.
Playoff Hopes Already Dashed?
Many considered Wisconsin to be a darkhorse candidate to reach the College Football Playoff this year, but it is quite possible that those hopes may have already been dashed by a season-opening 35-17 loss to Alabama in Arlington in which the Badgers were thoroughly dominated, getting out-gained in terms of yardage 502-268. Yes it was Alabama, but many experts still expected Wisconsin to be more competitive.
Meanwhile, Miami-Ohio was the winning college football pick for just the third time in its last 29 games on opening weekend, taking care of Presbyterian out of the FCS 26-7. While the competition was obviously not much, at least the RedHawks did what they were supposed to by out-gaining the Blue Hose 466-315.
Must Run Better
Wisconsin finished fourth in the country in rushing last season with 320.1 yards per game on the ground, but Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon now plays in the NFL and the Badgers managed just 40 rushing yards on 21 carries (1.9 YPC) vs. the Crimson Tide, with 25 of those yards coming on an end-around by wide receiver Alex Erickson. Gordon’s replacement Corey Clement was non-existent, managing 16 yards on eight carries.
Sure, Joel Stave became the sixth Wisconsin quarterback to go over 5000 career passing yards by throwing for 228 yards against the Tide, but he remains more of a game manager than a true gunslinger. Luckily the Badgers should have an easier time running the football this week now that they are now facing a truly elite defense, but by the same token we saw nothing last week to suggest that Wisconsin will simply run roughshod over the RedHawks either.
Experienced Front Seven
That is partly because Miami-Ohio is not helpless defensively with an experienced front seven (six returning starters including entire defensive line) led by possibly the best linebacker in the MAC in Kent Kern, who led the team with nine tackles last week while the RedHawks held Presbyterian to 3.8 yards per rush. And while Miami may not have Big Ten size up front, it is still big enough to not get thoroughly dominated by the burly Wisconsin offensive line.
Moreover the RedHawks showed signs they are improved offensively last week, especially with quarterback Drew Klummer completing 14-of-19 passes for 255 yards, which computes to a whopping 13.4 yards per pass attempt! Yes, we total get that was vs. FCS competition, but remember that this is a 32-point underdog we are talking about here, so a mere competent performance from the offense combined with the defense holding up should enable a cover.
Trending the Big Dog
Finally, for all of you trend lovers out there, consider that the huge underdogs from Miami-Ohio are 5-1 ATS in their last six road games and 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games, while heavily favored Wisconsin is 0-4 ATS in its last four games after allowing more than 450 total yards in its previous game.
No, we do not expect Miami-Ohio to shock the world at Camp Randall Stadium, but we do expect the RedHawks to do enough good things to stay inside this 32-point spread visiting Wisconsin on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Miami-Ohio +32 (-106)