Handicapping Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes at Wisconsin Badgers

The atmosphere undoubtedly will be electric when No. 8 Wisconsin hosts No. 2 Ohio State under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State Buckeyes vs Wisconsin Badgers kick off tomorrow at 8:00 PM on ABC from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.

But loud home fans, and the week off the Badgers got after losing 14-7 at Michigan, won’t be enough against the dominant Buckeyes.

Ohio State has been so good, it was considered a disappointment last week when the Buckeyes beat Indiana by three touchdowns. Not just for bettors who laid 28 points, but for players who lamented a slew of offensive mistakes.

Look for Ohio State to be razor-focused the way it was for its only other previous road challenge — at Oklahoma.

Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook (56 percent completions, four TDs, five INTs) needs a huge effort from running back Corey Clement to take the pressure off. The Wolverines limited him to 9-of-25 passing for 88 yards and intercepted him three times.

Despite the talent disparity — J.T. Barrett has accounted for 19 TDs against three INTs and Ohio State has scored at least 38 points in every game — several trends favor the Badgers. The underdog is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five meetings. And the Badgers are 12-2 ATS after amassing fewer than 275 total yards in their previous game.

With the total sitting at 44, it’s worth noting the Under is 6-0-1 in the past seven meetings in Madison.

SPORTS CHEETAH’S TAKE

I won’t be surprised if Wisconsin is a popular double-digit home underdog off a bye.

I personally won’t be getting involved since my numbers line up with the current line, but as each week passes, the wins over Michigan State and LSU are looking less and less impressive. Everybody is beating Sparty now, and LSU was a disaster under now-fired head coach Les Miles.

This is still the Wisconsin team that beat Georgia State by six points at home as 35.5-point favorites three games ago. Until they have consistent quarterback play, defenses will be able to stack eight or nine in the box against Clement and force the Badgers to air it out.

Ohio State arguably has the best defense it has ever had under Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes haven’t given up a single fourth-quarter point and they still haven’t given up a rushing touchdown. The Buckeyes also rank No. 2 in the country in yards per play allowed (3.6).

So who is ahead of them? Michigan. The same Wolverines team that just held the Wisconsin offense to seven points and 159 yards in the Badgers’ last game. Alex Hornibrook was held to 88 yards through the air on 9-of-25 passing, and he threw three interceptions.

I worry Wisconsin will have similar struggles moving the football, and I don’t think many people would be rushing to bet +10 against Ohio State if they knew ahead of time they would only be getting 7 to 14 points from the Badgers.

The total has dropped significantly since the open Monday at 48, so I may not get my target number, but if you see a Badgers’ team total later at 17.5 or more it will definitely be something I look at playing Under.

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LINE MOVEMENT

BookMaker.eu opened at Ohio State -10 and immediately took public money on the Buckeyes, pushing the line to -11.

“Then we had some sharp bettors come out and grab the Badgers,” odds consultant Scott Cooley said. “It feels like they were waiting to see how many points they could get, and that was the ceiling. While the public will be on the Buckeyes come Saturday, I fully anticipate more sharp action on the home dog as this likely won’t close at double digits.”

However, as of Thursday, the Buckeyes were laying 11 at many books, according to SportsLine’s consensus of major books.

LAST WEEK

The Badgers had the week off following a pair of covers at the Michigan schools. They won 30-6 at Michigan State at 3.5-point underdogs, then lost 14-7 at Michigan as 11.5-point dogs. Wisconsin is 4-1 ATS, including 3-0 ATS at home. The Under is 4-1 in Badgers’ games.

The Buckeyes failed to cover for the first time in their 38-17 win over Indiana as 28-point chalk. It was the lowest scoring output this year for Ohio State, and the third Under in five games.

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