The Wisconsin Badgers have been to three of the last four Big Ten Championship games, and the Michigan Wolverines have yet to appear in one. So besides being at home, why is UM favored?
Because the imbalance in the B1G is that extreme. If you can get through the Big Ten East, you’re likely to be in the College Football Playoff. And you’re also 100% assured to win the Big Ten title, as the dominance of the of that division has been unabated since its formation six years ago.
When and where
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Why the line is what it is
Because Wisconsin is the elite team in the B1G West. There have been nine Big Ten Championship Games, and the Badgers have played in six of them. But they haven’t won one since 2012, and the East Division has won all six trophies since the league realigned in 2014.
Running back Jonathan Taylor has moved on to the NFL following a terrific college career, leaving the run-first Badgers with Nakia Watson as the likely starter. Senior Jack Coan is the likely starter at quarterback, but his numbers (18 TD’s, 5 INT’s) aren’t anything stellar. No team embraces “establish the run” like Bucky, and that shouldn’t change for Paul Chryst this season.
Jim Harbaugh’s return in Ann Arbor has one massive failure in never beating Ohio State and thus no B1G title game appearances, but the Wolverines are 47-18 under Harbaugh.
Block M was 9-4 last year, and finished the season 10th in SP+ and 11th in defensive efficiency. The four losses all game to teams that finished in the top-11 of the AP poll.
UM has a quarterback battle with Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton, but are loaded at running back. Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell should be playmakers at wide receiver.
Why it might change
Michigan opens at Washington before a couple of delicious gluten-free cupcakes in Ball State and Arkansas State. If they put up a nice win in Seattle, this could get closer to a TD for the home team.
Wisconsin, as per dictate and tradition, plays Southern Illinois and App State out of conference after opening with what might be a feisty Indiana team in Madison.
Where the value is now
Michigan, by the numbers, is more than 3.5 points better than Wisconsin. And that’s before you factor in this game being played in Ann Arbor. We very much like UM here, if only because they have a defense that can slow down the Badgers, and just better playmakers on their side of the ball.
Michigan tends to beat up on lesser teams, while really struggling with the elite of college football. The Badgers, despite being perennial West Division winners, just aren’t in that elite class.
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