Big Ten Football Championship College Football Picks and Spreads: Wisconsin Badgers @ Michigan St Spartans 2011 NCAA Football Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on FOX 12/3/11: It’s not often that a highly-anticipated matchup lives up to the hype, but when Wisconsin and Michigan State got together in a battle of top-10 teams in October, they didn’t disappoint. The Spartans won on a desperation pass as time expired, dashing the Badgers’ title hopes while bolstering their own. The teams will go at it again Saturday night in the inaugural Big Ten title game with a trip to the Rose Bowl up for grabs. Even though the 13th-ranked Spartans and 15th-ranked Badgers are both 10-2, Wisconsin is a 9 ½-point favorite in the rematch.
In the regular season meeting, the Spartans jumped out to an early lead in front of their home crowd and threatened to put the game away early. However, the Badgers regained their footing in time to mount a second half comeback, pulling even late in the game. Overtime seemed inevitable until a Hail Mary pass by Michigan State ended up in the hands of receiver Keith Nichol for the game-winning touchdown. For a Wisconsin team that had some struggles on the road, the best news for Saturday’s game is that it will be played on a neutral field, which could help the Badgers avoid an early hole.
On paper, a defensive battle should be in order. The Badgers rank fourth in the country in scoring defense and the Spartans rank sixth. Neither team is giving up more than 16 points per game for the year. That being said, the 37-31 final in the earlier meeting between the two teams suggest that some points will be scored. There will likely be a few big plays made by both defenses, but the overall tempo of the game will belong to the offenses.
Offensively, the edge goes to the Badgers. Wisconsin’s massive offensive line has helped the Badgers rank 10th in the country in rushing. Quarterback Russell Wilson has given the offense more than enough balance, and the Badgers rank fourth in the country in scoring at 44.8 points per game. The center of the attack is running back Montee Ball, who has scored an incredible 34 touchdowns this season. Ball has a chance to break Barry Sanders’ single-season record of 39 scores, and a big performance Saturday night could turn him into a legitimate Heisman contender.
The X-factor could be Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. He threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in the victory against the Badgers, and since an ugly loss to Nebraska, he has been brilliant. Cousins has thrown 10 touchdowns compared to just one interception during the last four games, and it is no coincidence that the Spartans have won all four games. If Cousins plays well once again, Michigan State’s chance are greatly improved.
If not for two Hail Mary passes, the Badgers would be undefeated and playing for a spot in the national title game. In short, Wisconsin is probably the best two-loss team in the country. That being said, the Spartans are going to have plenty of confidence going into this matchup. While they might not be able to stop Ball and company from scoring, Wisconsin’s defense wasn’t able to stop Cousins and the Michigan State offense either. There is a budding rivalry between these two programs, and even though the Badgers are the more complete team, 9 ½ points is too generous.
Prediction: Michigan State Spartans (+9 ½) Cover the Spread
|College Football: Michigan St @ Wisconsin
Time: 8:15 PM EST on FOX
Vegas Odds – Favorite: Wisconsin -9.5 Total: Over/Under 54.5
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