Wisconsin Betting Odds Preview
It doesn't really matter how they got there; years from now, when we look through the archives, it will say the Wisconsin Badgers won the first two Big Ten championship games. It might not say Ohio State and Penn State, two teams that beat Wisconsin last year, were both ineligible for the title last season, and that'll be just fine with Badger Nation. UW now goes in search of a third straight conference title with a new head coach, after the somewhat surprising departure of Bret Bielema. But maybe the Badgers were due for a shake-up anyway.
Wisconsin lost six games last year; each one to a bowl-bound team (except Penn State, which went 8-4 but was ineligible for a bowl), each one by a touchdown or less. The Badgers only went 4-4 in Big Ten play, but the two teams that finished above them in the Leaders Division were serving postseason bans. So it was off to Indianapolis again, where this time, after outlasting Michigan State the previous December, Wisconsin put on a clinic, racking up over 500 yards on the ground and scoring 10 touchdowns in trouncing Nebraska 70-31. But between winning the conference championship and playing in the Rose Bowl coach Bielema announced he was leaving Madison for Arkansas.
So former head coach and current AD Barry Alvarez stepped in to coach one more game, and almost boosted his Rose Bowl record to 4-0 until a late interception ended the Badgers' hopes in the 20-14 loss to a very good Stanford team. Wisconsin finished 8-6 overall, 5-4 in conference play and 6-7-1 ATS. UW then got lucky when it pried Gary Andersen away from Utah State, where he took the Aggies from 3-9 the year before he got there to 11-2 in four seasons. In fact, Andersen's USU squad should have beaten Wisconsin at Camp Randall last September, if not for a short missed field goal at the buzzer. Bielema certainly didn't bail on an empty cupboard.
Eight starters return on offense, including three decent options at QB, two very good options at RB, all-Big Ten WR Jared Abbrederis, and three starters on the offensive line; and six starters are back from a defense that held foes to 19 PPG last year.
Wisconsin opens this season with scrimmages against UMass and Tennessee Tech, visits Arizona State, then opens Big Ten play with a home game against Purdue. But then comes the Big One, the game that might decide the division championship; Ohio State in Columbus. After that, the Badgers should be favored in every game. They host Northwestern, BYU, Indiana, and Penn State, and visit Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. And they miss Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska. Can't ask for much more than that.
Big Ten Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 5
Ohio State -115
Michigan State +800