Can the Badgers cover the spread as large home favorites this week?
Last week was a tough start for the Wisconsin Badger faithful as the Badgers lost their season opener to Penn State 16-10. However, if you followed the advice of this here betting column you at least got a silver lining from the contest as Penn State covered the 5.5 points, and the under essentially cashed at halftime.
That gets us to a 2-0 start in the column so things are off on a good foot this season. If you also followed the picks over at Tyler’s Take you may have found some winners as the column there went 3-3. Overall, it’s been a nice 11-5-1 start to the college football betting season. Be sure to follow me on the Action Network if you’re looking for all my plays through this season.
Ok, enough shameless plugs, let’s get into Week 2!
This week the Badgers remain at home for a night game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The Eagles come in 1-0 after their 35-15 win over FCS squad St. Francis (Pa.). As of Wednesday afternoon, the Badgers currently sit as 26 point favorites and the total for this contest sits at 52 points. We’ll dive into both of those numbers, but first, some notable trends for this matchup:
- Wisconsin is 13-9 ATS in non-conference contests under Paul Chryst
- Wisconsin is 15-21 ATS as a home favorite under Paul Chryst
- Wisconsin is 9-9 ATS the week after a loss
- Eastern Michigan is 19-9 ATS in non-conference games under Chris Creighton
- Eastern Michigan is 24-10-1 as a road underdog under Chris Creighton
- Eastern Michigan is 45-36-1 (55.6%) ATS under Chris Creighton
ATS Pick: Eastern Michigan (+26)
I try not to look too deeply into trends against the spread, but here there are some glaring numbers on both sidelines. For Wisconsin, they generally don’t tend to cover the spread in these types of games. As you can see above Wisconsin has struggled to cover non-conference contests in Paul Chryst’s career.
The more notable trend however is Chris Creighton who is a covering machine at EMU. Since 2014, when Creighton took over, the Eagles have covered the spread in 55% of his contests. That ranks No. 17 among programs over that span. When you drill further down you’ll see that the games he really has his teams thrive in is covering as road underdogs, the exact spot here. The Eagles have covered in 68% of their road dog contests under Creighton, an incredible number. Additionally, in their last 42 of their last 48 games have been decided by one score or fewer.
Beyond the trends, I think this is a solid play as well. EMU comes into this game with 10 offensive starters returning and 11 defensive starters back on the other side. By any metric you go off of Eastern Michigan is one of the more experienced teams across college football and many players on this roster have been a part of Big Ten road games victories as EMU won at Rutgers in 2017, at Purdue in 2018 and at Illinois in 2019.
The last point, do you really wanna throw your hard-earned money down on Wisconsin to cover four scores? I mean, I haven’t even seen them score more than 10 points yet!
Over/Under? Under 52
Last week Wisconsin dominated in the time of possession category, leading the NCAA with 42 minutes after Week 1. They held the ball longer than BOTH ARMY AND NAVY. Eastern Michigan also did well in the TOP rankings, keeping the ball for 34 minutes against St. Francis, which ranks No. 16 in the country.
Something has to give here, but so far we’ve seen both of these teams look to deflate the football and control the clock. Eastern Michigan threw the ball just 22 times a week ago. Wisconsin threw it 37 times, but many we’re late in the game trying to drive the field. I expect the Badgers to find more balance passing but establishing the ground game will always be their main objective and I think that will continue to happen here.
The only cause for concern I have with the under is Eastern Michigan’s defense and their susceptibility to give up big plays. Last year, EMU allowed nine touchdowns of 24+ yards. If Wisconsin hits a couple of big hitters quickly the total here could be in trouble, but once again I have not seen it yet from Wisconsin. Until I do, I have to ride with the under.
One last point. Right now this total is on a key number of 52, so watch where it moves carefully if you want to bet this. Since 2005, the final score of a game has landed on 52 2.62% of the time. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is the fourth highest behind 45, 51, and 55. If you like the under, see if you can find a 52.5 out there to keep you above two key college football numbers.