Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin, 1/2/17 – Expert Prediction
Written by: Stephen Sobek
#15 Western Michigan (13-0, 9-4 ATS) vs. #8 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3, 9-3-1 ATS)
NCAAF: Monday, January 2 @ 1:00 p.m. ET
The Line: Wisconsin Badgers -7.5 Total: 54
Bowl: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
The Western Michigan Broncos are undefeated for the first time in program history and will be rewarded with a New Year’s Six bowl matchup with Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin. The Broncos dominated the MAC Conference all season long, posting some impressive numbers in the process. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is a team that doesn’t wow a ton of people, but has consistently gotten the job done in one of the nation’s toughest football conferences.
Do You Believe in Miracles?
Four short years ago, the Western Michigan Broncos were outright bad. They finished the 2013 season just 1-11, their lone win coming by a single point over UMass, a team that has since left the MAC altogether. The outlook was bleak in Kalamazoo, but the players apparently believed in the system, and now here they are in a New Year’s Six game. Zach Terrell and Corey Davis were freshman on that team four years ago, and have become two of the most recognizable names outside the Power Five. Davis is near the top of many NFL Draft boards, as he’s compiled the country’s seventh-most receiving yards and highest touchdown mark amongst wideouts, with 1,427 yards and 18 scores, respectively.
The Broncos barely escaped the MAC Championship game, winning 29-23 against the Ohio Bobcats. Terrell went for 290 through the air with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Davis, as always, led all Western Michigan receivers with eight catches for 144 yards. The Broncos dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for almost eight more minutes than their opponents. Forcing three turnovers also helped WMU edge the comeback-minded Bobcats.
Wisconsin was approaching halftime in their last game of what looked to be a 2016 Big Ten Conference championship season. The Badgers were up 28-7 on the scoreboard, and all hope seemed to be lost for Penn State. However, the Nittany Lions never gave up, mounting a valiant second half comeback on the way to a 38-31 victory. Wisconsin overlooked Penn State after separating themselves early on, and I have a feeling that Western Michigan has the capability of doing the same if the Badgers carry a similar mindset into the Cotton Bowl.
Bart Houston led the passing attack for the Big Ten West champs. He threw for an unimpressive 174 yards on 16 completions. Corey Clement was the big story in the Wisconsin backfield, carrying the ball 21 times for 164 yards and a touchdown. Although it derailed in the second half against the Nittany Lions, the Badgers’ defense put up solid numbers throughout the regular season, allowing opponents a shade under 4,000 yards, good for 13th in the country. Western Michigan should put up a fight, however, so it’s up to Wisconsin to be ready for anything.
College Football Trends:
Western Michigan is:
- 6-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
- 27-11 ATS last 38 overall.
- 4-0 ATS last 4 vs. Big 10.
- 0-4 ATS last 4 as a favorite.
The Broncos are a team that has defied all odds the entire season, and I believe that they’re a particularly dangerous squad to face at the moment. Head coach P.J. Fleck has his side motivated and hungry to show the world that they can compete with the big boys. I love for Western Michigan to cover this spread and maybe even knock off the Badgers in the Cotton Bowl. Wisconsin is especially downtrending after blowing a 21-point advantage in the Big Ten title game. Since 2004, non-Power Five schools are 5-2 against Power Five competition (or the BCS equivalent), so the underdog label must not mean much.
The Pick: #15 Western Michigan Broncos +7.5
Western Michigan possesses an elite offense, albeit residing in the MAC Conference. The aforementioned combination of Terrell to Davis is deadly against any defense, and Wisconsin won’t have it any easier. The total seems low to me, considering how effective the Badgers have been on the ground this season. Look for Corey Clement to go out with a bang in his last game, as multiple touchdowns wouldn’t be out of the question. I think this one could venture into shootout territory, even though Wisconsin isn’t a team built for scoring at the same pace as their opponents. Take the over with confidence.
The Pick: Over 54
I'm an incredibly passionate sports fan that can't get enough of anything football, baseball, basketball, or hockey related. I've been picking spreads and teams for 7 years with great success, so you know I can pick you some winners!
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