Published on Jan. 1 at 7:40 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
Wisconsin is returning to the Rose Bowl for a second straight season. This time around, the Badgers will take on Oregon from out of the Pac-12.
As of Sunday evening, most betting shops had Oregon (11-2 straight up, 6-5-2 against the spread) installed as a six-point favorite with a total of 72. Gamblers can take Wisconsin to win outright for a plus-190 return (risk $100 to win $190).
Brett Bielema’s team came up short in Pasadena last year, dropping a 21-19 decision to TCU. But the Badgers did cover the number as three-point underdogs.
TCU was in the Rose Bowl because Oregon was in the BCS Championship Game. The Ducks, who lost to Ohio St. in the Rose Bowl two years ago, are in a BCS game for the third straight year under Chip Kelly.
Oregon lost its opener to LSU by a 40-27 count at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, but it responded with nine consecutive victories to get back into the national-title picture. However, thoughts of returning to the BCS Championship Game were shattered on Nov. 19 when Southern Cal went into Eugene and emerged with a 38-35 win as a 16 ½-point underdog.
Kelly’s team won its regular-season finale with a 49-21 win over Oregon St. in annual Civil War battle. The Ducks were favored by 28 so side bets were a push.
The following week, Oregon beat UCLA 49-31 in the inaugural Pac-12 title game but the Bruins took the cash as 31-point underdogs.
Junior quarterback Darron Thomas enjoyed another stellar year, throwing for 2,493 yards and 30 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions. Even though junior RB LaMichael James missed a couple of games, he still rushed for 1,646 yards and 17 TDs with a 7.4 yards-per-carry average.
De’Anthony Thomas lived up to the hype as a true freshman, producing 1,838 all-purpose yards with nine TD catches and five rushing scores. Kenjon Barner also rushed for 909 yards and 11 TD and had a pair of TD receptions.
Wisconsin (11-2 SU, 7-5-1 ATS) got an early Christmas gift in August when Russell Wilson, a transfer from North Carolina St., decided on Madison ahead of Auburn. Wilson didn’t disappoint, leading the Badgers to victory in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game while putting up dazzling numbers.
Wilson completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 2,879 yards with an amazing 31/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Wilson can also scramble and rushed for 320 yards and five TDs.
Montee Ball had a monster campaign, rushing for 1,759 yards and 32 TDs. Ball’s presence helped set up Wilson’s play-action opportunities and, in turn, teams had to be reluctant to stack the box to stop Ball out of fear of Wilson’s aerial accuracy. This combination resulted in a dynamic offensive unit that averaged 44.6 points per game.
Wisconsin’s losses came in back-to-back road games in late October. After winning their first six games by 31 points or more, the Badgers lost 37-31 at Michigan St. on a Hail Mary pass to end the game. Seven days later, they lost 33-29 at Ohio St.
Since then, Wisconsin has won five in a row, including a 42-39 revenge victory over the Spartans to win the Big Ten title. However, we should note that the Badgers are in the midst of a 2-5 ATS slide after failing to hook up their backers in the win over MSU as 9 ½-point favorites.
Both schools saw the ‘over’ finish with a 9-4 overall record. The ‘over’ has hit in four consecutive games for Oregon and eight of Wisconsin’s last 10 outings.
ESPN will have the telecast at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
The Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ., will take center stage in the prime-time slot, featuring Oklahoma St. and Stanford in an 8:30 p.m. Eastern showdown on ESPN.
As of Sunday night, most spots had the Cowboys listed as four-point favorites with the total in the 74-75 range. The Cardinal is available on the money line for a plus-155 payout.
Oklahoma St. (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS) finished the regular season in style, trouncing arch-rival Oklahoma by a 44-10 score as a 3 ½-point home ‘chalk’ in the Bedlam game in Stillwater. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combined to rush for 270 yards and both had two rushing TDs apiece. The OSU defense held OU to a season low in points thanks to two interceptions of Landry Jones.
Mike Gundy’s squad was in prime position to get to the school’s first BCS Championship Game. But on Nov. 18 in Ames, the 10-0 Cowboys blew a 10-point halftime lead in a 37-31 double-overtime loss at Iowa St.
Brandon Weeden threw for 476 yards and three TDs against the Cyclones, but he also had three costly interceptions. For the year, Weeden passed for 4,328 yards with a 34/12 TD-INT ratio.
Weeden had the benefit of one of the nation’s premier WRs in Justin Blackmon, who made 113 catches for 1,336 yards and 15 TDs. Randle rushed for a team-high 1,193 yards and 23 TDs.
Like OSU, Stanford (11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS) was also unbeaten into the month of November. On Nov. 12, though, Oregon came to Palo Alto and ruined the Cardinal’s national-title hopes by cruising to a 53-30 win as a three-point underdog.
Although Andrew Luck didn’t get his team to New Orleans and he came up short in the Heisman Trophy voting, he still had a great junior year and is a lock to go No. 1 in this year’s NFL Draft.
Luck completed 70-percent of his passes for 3,185 yards with a 35/9 TD-INT ratio. RB Stepfan Taylor gave the offense balance with his running ability, finishing with 1,153 rushing yards and eight TDs. Tyler Gaffney added seven rushing TDs while averaging 6.4 YPC.
Coby Fleener led Stanford in TD grabs with 10, while Griff Whalen hauled in a team-high 49 receptions for 664 yards and four scores. Chris Owusu had 35 catches for 376 yards and two TDs before sustaining a second concussion that’s kept him out of the last three games. Owusu is ‘doubtful’ for the Rose Bowl.
The ‘under’ is 6-4-2 overall for Oklahoma St., cashing in each of its last three games. The Cowboys have had five totals in the 70s with the ‘under’ going 3-2 in those instances.
Totals have been an overall wash for Stanford (6-6), but the ‘over’ is 4-2 in its last six games. This is the highest total the Cardinal has seen this year. The ‘over’ hit in its lone game with a total in the 70s.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–Wisconsin and Stanford are both in their first underdog situations of the season.
–Oregon lost outright in its lone single-digit favorite spot, falling to LSU as a three-point ‘chalk.’
–Oklahoma St. is a perfect 3-0 ATS as a single-digit favorite this year.
–In this recent report from SportsByBrooks, Brooks implies that Urban Meyer might be participating in Ohio State’s preparation for its Gator Bowl showdown vs. Florida. If so, that would be such an Oscar Weiner type move.
–South Carolina is 1-4 in bowl games during Steve Spurrier’s tenure. The Gamecocks will try to end a three-game losing streak in the postseason when it faces Nebraska on Monday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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