WISCONSIN BADGERS (5-2)
at IOWA HAWKEYES (5-3)
Kickoff: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET
Line: Wisconsin -9.5, Total: 48.5
No. 24 Wisconsin will look to stay on track for another berth in the Big Ten championship game as it travels to Iowa City Saturday afternoon to take on Iowa.
Wisconsin has bounced back after losing two of three games, including a 56-32 victory two weeks ago over Illinois. These two schools have not played since 2010, when the Badgers won a 31-30 thriller on the road. While a lot has changed since then, one thing remains the same, and that is Wisconsin still running the football as effectively as ever. Sophomore RB Melvin Gordon has rushed for 1,012 yards so far in the season, while averaging an outstanding 9.5 yards per carry. Gordon and teammate James White, (672 rush yards, seven touchdowns) the Badgers have one of the most elite rushing attacks in all of the country. Wisconsin is very close to being undefeated, with its two losses being by a combined nine points. On the season, the Badgers are 6-0-1 ATS, with their 7-point loss at Ohio State being the push. They have also been dominant in their victories, winning by an average of 35.4 PPG. They will be going against an Iowa team that has also been very competitive in its losses this year. Two weeks ago, the Hawkeyes had Ohio State on the ropes in Columbus before falling 34-24. Iowa is very similar to the Badgers when it comes to trying to dominate the game on the ground, as the team averages 43 carries per game. They will need to run the ball very well to keep the explosive Wisconsin offense on the sideline. Both coaches have extremely favorable trends here as Gary Andersen is 19-3 ATS in games played on turf, while Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is 15-2 ATS versus excellent rushing teams (230+ rushing YPG) since becoming the Iowa head coach.
Can Wisconsin cover the big spread against a strong Iowa club? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts are a combined 56% ATS (86-68-7) in college football Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary who is 65% ATS (13-7-1) in college football Best Bets over the past seven weeks and 58% ATS (14-10-1) this year. StatFox Dave is also 58% ATS (28-20-2) in Best Bets this season, while StatFox Brian is 57% ATS (21-16-1) for yearly CFB Best Bets.
Wisconsin currently ranks eighth in the country with 296.9 rushing yards per game, but is not one-dimensional on offense in large part because of WR Jared Abbrederis. On the season, he has 43 catches for 752 yards and five touchdowns. Against Ohio State on Sept. 28, Abbrederis had a monster game, finishing with 10 catches and 207 yards. He is a big reason why sophomore QB Joel Stave has completed 64% of his passes for 1,486 yards (8.4 YPA), 13 TD and 6 INT this year. While the offense gets a lot of the talk, the Badgers once again have one of the best defenses in all of the country. In the first seven games, the defense has only given up 15.9 points per game (6th in FBS). Linebacker Chris Borland is terrific, averaging 8.2 tackles per game, but his status is in question after suffering a hamstring injury against Illinois last weekend. However, there are other players that are very talented on the defense, especially CB Sojourn Shelton. With another interception last week, the freshman now has three on the season. He is a little undersized at 5-foot-9, but is very physical and fast enough to run with any receiver in the country. Both teams like to grind it out on offense, and they both rely on outstanding defense.
The Hawkeyes are allowing only 18.1 points per game, which ranks 12th in the country. These two teams may be as comparable of opponents as there are in the country. Iowa will lean on running back Mark Weisman, who has 732 yards and three touchdowns on the season. He must get back to his early season form in this game, as he rushed for at least 100 yards in four of the first five Hawkeyes games. In the past three games, he has been able to run for only 117 yards. He is a big, strong and powerful back that can wear out the opposing defense. Iowa also has a capable sophomore to run the offense in QB Jake Rudock, who has completed 61% of his throws for 1,616 yards (6.9 YPA), and 12 TD this year, but has also thrown 8 INT, including at least one pick in each of the past four games. Like the Badgers, Iowa has a star linebacker in James Morris. On the season, Morris has 63 tackles, to go along with three interceptions and three sacks. He is a playmaker with the ability to run sideline-to-sideline, which will be huge against Gordon of Wisconsin. Look for this game to be a very low-scoring affair, with the team that does not turn the ball over winning the game.