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College football forecast: On Wisconsin as disrespected 'dog

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

December 2, 2017 08:48 AM
Urban Meyer, who is 1-1 in Big Ten title games, leads Ohio State against Wisconsin today in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes are 5-point favorites. With a win, the Badgers are in the four-team playoff.
© USA Today Sports Images

Not much has been said this week about Paul Chryst, who’s not exactly a household name. He coaches an undefeated team with a great defense, but his team is mostly perceived as a nuisance in the great College Football Playoff debates.

What has been said about Wisconsin is far from flattering. The schedule was weak. The wins are ugly. The quarterback stinks. Even a minor-league baseball player, Tim Tebow, piled on by claiming the Badgers would have no prayer against mighty Alabama. Chryst was not even mentioned as the eighth choice in the circus that is the Tennessee coaching search.

The headline news leading up to the Big Ten championship game has been all about Urban Meyer. The Ohio State coach was angry and spearheading a manhunt to find the mysterious photographer who sacked quarterback J.T. Barrett and wrecked his right knee in pregame warmups last week.

Six days after arthroscopic knee surgery, Barrett is a game-time decision, and Meyer might be forced to go with backup Dwayne Haskins, a redshirt freshman. Meyer wants some sympathy. He believes the Buckeyes, despite two ugly double-digit losses, deserve a playoff spot.

Barrett has 42 touchdowns (33 passing, nine rushing) and combines with running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to lead a flashy offense. Now we find out if Wisconsin’s junkyard-dog defense is legit. The Badgers bring in the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense (80.5 yards per game) and No. 2 scoring defense (12.0), but they have not faced one great quarterback all season. Barrett will be the best they have faced, if he plays, and bet on him playing.

Wisconsin would be considered lucky if a sideline cameraman knocks out its quarterback, Alex Hornibrook, who has tossed 13 interceptions and is often a liability. However, Hornibrook has shown improvement the past two weeks by cutting down on pick-sixes.

The Badgers are hoping their quarterback does not sabotage their chances while running back Jonathan Taylor carries the offense and the defense takes care of business, as usual. To beat the Buckeyes — or at least cover the number — the Badgers need their defense to dominate while Taylor (1,806 yards rushing) controls the pace of the game on the ground.

It also would help if the Badgers bring their “A” game while the Buckeyes bring what little they did in a 55-24 loss at Iowa in early November. Count on Wisconsin (12-0) bringing the attitude of a disrespected underdog.

Three years ago, I was on Ohio State in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes, with a backup quarterback, were 4-point underdogs in a 59-0 embarrassment of the Badgers. But this Meyer team is nowhere near as dangerous. This time, I’m on Wisconsin.

The Buckeyes’ star quarterback is hobbled, and it might not be pretty, but the Badgers can win this game with their defense.

Saturday’s plays: Texas Christian (plus-7) over Oklahoma; Georgia (Pick) over Auburn; Fresno State (plus-9) over Boise State; Wisconsin (plus-5) over Ohio State.

Last week: 2-6 against the spread

Season: 51-52-2


Subscribers to the Vegas Stats & Information Network’s digital magazine get access to our weekly college and pro handicapping contests. Here are the contest selections for this week, with lines posted as of Tuesday’s deadline:

Todd Dewey, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Last week: 3-2

Season: 28-36-1

USC -3.5

Central Florida -7

Auburn -2.5

Fresno State plus-9

Oklahoma -7

Paul Howard,

Last week: 3-2

Season: 34-29-2

Georgia Southern -2.5

North Texas plus-10.5

Ohio State-Wisconsin Under 53

Massachusetts-FIU Under 55.5

Florida State -27

Brett Lawson,

Last week: 3-2

Season: 24-39-2

Stanford plus-3.5

Memphis plus-7

Fresno State plus-9

Miami-Clemson Under 47.5 

Wisconsin plus-6

Amal Shah,

Last week: 2-3

Season: 23-41-1

USC -3.5

Central Florida -7

Auburn -2.5

Clemson -9.5

Oklahoma -7

Matt Youmans,

Last week: 3-2

Season: 34-31

Stanford plus-3.5

Georgia plus-2.5

Fresno State plus-9

Wisconsin plus-6

Texas Christian plus-7

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