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Wisconsin football: Michigan State betting preview

Where should you put your hard-earned cash this weekend?

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NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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The Badgers once again covered last week, and the defense pitched another shutout which allowed the under to hit with relative ease. That puts the betting preview at a nice 8-2 record on the season thus far.

The column has done well this season; however, as a man of the people, I have to be honest. I struggle to handicap Michigan State. I’ve had a play on them in my weekly betting column three times this year, and I have been wrong all three times.

The spread for this game opened at 10 in favor of Wisconsin and has moved only a .5 point despite Wisconsin getting 67% of the bets. The total opened at 40.5 and has seen a split in bets over the course of the week. As of now the game sits at 40, and I expect that to stay the same up until game time. Both numbers are intriguing, and we’ll dive fully into them after we list some notable trends.

  • Wisconsin is 5-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last six games.
  • Wisconsin is 2-4 ATS in its last six games played in October.
  • Michigan State is 2-8 ATS in its last ten games.
  • Michigan State is 1-5 ATS in its last six conference games.
  • The total has gone under in 11 of Michigan State’s last 14 games.
  • The total has gone under in in 8 of Wisconsin’s last 11 games.

ATS Pick: Michigan State (+10.5)

As you can see above, there aren’t a lot of notable trends in this game. Why is that? Well, a lot of it has to do with that fact that these teams haven’t squared off much of late. Since the Big Ten Championship in 2011, these two schools have only played twice, the last time being a 30-6 win over Michigan State at East Lansing. Additionally, they wont square off again until 2022 unless they meet in the title game.

Despite these two not playing much, I have to give the ATS pick to Michigan State, but I do not feel very confident about it. Similar to the Michigan game, I think this contest could go a lot of different ways.

However, there is a profitable system for this game which helped sway my decision. That system is playing on road conference underdogs with low totals. The 40 point total is the second lowest total of the week, and generally in these games the road underdog is much more profitable. That is simply because lower points mean a tighter game which often makes it harder to cover. Since 2005, road underdogs in conference games with low totals of 45 points or less have gone 284-224 ATS (55.9%). A consistent mark of 55% is reason enough for me to play on that system. I do believe the Badgers win this game, but I think Michigan State has enough to keep this within a 10.5 margin.

Over/Under? Under 40

I don’t love this total either, but I see much more reason to play the under vs the over in this situation. Firstly, the defenses. Wisconsin ranks first in total defense, and Michigan State ranks seventh. On top of that, the Badgers rank first in run defense, while Michigan State ranks seventh. Two great defenses often means lower points, but that isn’t the biggest thing that drove me to the under.

The weather for this game is a huge reason for this low total. In addition to the cold, wind looks like it will be a heavy factor on Saturday. The current forecast calls for wind speeds of 17 miles per hour. In games with heavy wind, the under is very prevalent. Since 2005, games with wind over 10 or more miles per hour has hit the under 54.5% of the time. If you up that to 20 miles per hour, the under has hit at 64.3%.

So lets say you split the difference at 17, and you still win 59.4% of the time. Wind is the biggest weather factor in football, and it should play a role in this game. Heavy winds alter special teams and can give passing games havoc. In turn, teams will keep the ball on the ground. Michigan State’s offensive success has came through the air, so this does give Wisconsin a slight edge. I could see this game going over if both teams break off some big runs, but I expect a low scoring slugfest in the cold and wind.