Free College Football Picks for Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, December 4, 2014 2:57 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 2:57 PM UTC

Unless Ohio State beats Wisconsin in Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, the Big Ten will be watching the first College Football Playoff from the sideline. It might even if OSU wins. Wisconsin is -4.5 on college football odds.

Win & Hope for Ohio State
The good news for Ohio State (11-1, 8-0) is that it moved up one spot to No. 5 in Tuesday's release of the College Football Playoff rankings. That bad news is there are of course only four spots available and the four teams ahead of the Buckeyes -- No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 TCU and No. 4 Florida State -- are all favored at sportsbooks to win their games this weekend. In addition, OSU still has to worry about being jumped by No. 6 Baylor, which is a home favorite against Kansas State on Saturday. Should the Buckeyes lose, it's a moot point and the Big Ten misses the playoff. No. 8 Michigan State is the next highest-ranked team and it lost convincingly to Ohio State. Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1) won't be jumping into the Top 4 from No. 13 even if the Badgers win this game by 50. Currently Ohio State is No. 6 at sportsbooks to win the playoff at +1500.

If Ohio State wins, it would be hard to imagine it not getting into the Top 4 if one of that group loses. TCU almost surely won't at home to Iowa State but any of the other three could fall. However, the committee might swap Baylor and TCU in the rankings if the Bears beat Kansas State convincingly because they beat the Frogs earlier this season. It's hard to imagine the committee would take both TCU and Baylor from a Big 12 conference without a title game over a Big Ten champion Buckeyes team.


Buckeyes vs. Badgers
Unfortunately, we won't see the two best offensive players in the Big Ten in this one. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year this week and it was highly deserved. He leads the nation with 2,260 rushing yards, a Big Ten record and fourth-best in FBS history. Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (1988) holds the all-time mark with 2,628. Gordon's average of 8.00 yards per carry is on pace to break the NCAA single-season record. The junior, who seems a lock to go pro after this year, also leads the nation 29 touchdowns, the second-best total in Big Ten history. He needs one more to become third player in FBS history with at least 2,000 rushing yards and 30 TDs, joining Sanders and former Central Florida star Kevin Smith.

Needless to say, Ohio State's defense will focus entirely on stopping Gordon because the Badgers scare no one throwing the ball. In eight Big Ten games, Gordon averaged a league-record 206.0 yards per outing. He hit the 200-yard mark four times, including briefly an FBS-record 408, and his lowest output was 122 against Maryland in a game Gordon was pulled early. Ohio State's run defense has had its problems. Behind Jeremy Langford (137 yards), Michigan State rushed for 178 vs. the Buckeyes. Behind David Cobb (145 yards), Minnesota had 218. Behind Tevin Coleman (228 yards), Indiana had 281. Even offensively challenged Michigan had 121 last week. Expect eight in the box at all times and sometimes nine as OSU dares QB Joel Stave to win the game.

Meanwhile, Ohio State redshirt freshman QB J.T. Barrett was Gordon's top competition for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, but Barrett had to settle for Freshman of the Year. Barrett, who probably will be a Heisman finalist with Gordon, played out of his mind in place of preseason Heisman favorite Braxton Miller, who was lost for the year in August. Barrett had a Big Ten-record 45 total touchdowns and school-record 3,772 total yards, but he was lost late in the Michigan game to a season-ending broken ankle.

That means OSU will press forward with third-stringer Cardale Jones, a sophomore who lost a close race with Barrett in August to replace Miller. Jones isn't all that accurate but he has a much stronger arm than Barrett and brings a physical presence to the ground game at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. OSU says it doesn't expect to change much offensively with Jones in there, but if he gets hurt, look out. The only other scholarship QB is Stephen Collier, and the school wants to redshirt him. Thus H-back Jalin Marshall would be the backup. Jones is 10-for-17 for 118 yards and two scores this season and has rushed 26 times for 206 yards.

Unfortunately for Jones, he faces the Big Ten's best defense. Wisconsin is allowing just 260.3 yards per game to rank No. 2 in the FBS. The Badgers rank No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (16.8 ppg), No. 8 in rushing (103.8 ypg) and No. 2 in defense (156.6 ypg). UW is one of three teams to rank among the nation’s Top 10 of all four major defensive categories.

Wisconsin is 5-7 against the NCAA football spread this season and 6-5-1 'over/under.' OSU is 7-5 ATS and 10-2 'over/under' at sportsbooks.


Recent Series Results
The schools last met Sept. 28, 2013, in Columbus and No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 23 Wisconsin 31-24 behind four touchdown passes from Miller. Stave was UW's starter and was 20 of 34 for 295 yards, two TDs and a pick. Gordon rushed 15 times for 74 yards, but he was just a co-No. 1 then with James White. Ohio State has won six of the past seven meetings overall but this will be the first time ever the sides meet at a neutral site. UW is 2-0 in Big Ten title games, while OSU is 0-1, losing as a big favorite at sportsbooks last year to Michigan State.

College Football Pick: Ohio State +4.5 on college football odds and 'over' 52.5 points as part of our free college football picks for today. Wisconsin may have the best player in Gordon, but OSU still has more talent overall. The Badgers are 1-5 ATS in their past six neutral-site games. The 'over' is 5-1 in UW's past six neutral-site games. The 'over' is 12-1 in Ohio State's past 13 vs. teams with a winning record.

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