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Betting Preview: Wisconsin @ Minnesota

Who wins, or covers, in the battle for the Axe?

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NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Minnesota Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

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Last week the Badgers got another solid win on Senior Day against the Purdue Boilermakers. The over cashed early in the third quarter to get a win, but the Badgers inability to hang onto the football prevented them from covering the spread. Four self inflicted wounds hurt their chances despite the effort to get to the number late in the fourth quarter. That puts the column at a 14-8 mark on the regular season.

Now the Badgers will travel to Minnesota in a clash for the Axe and the West division title. Despite the worse record and being on the road, the Badgers opened this game as a two-point favorite against the Gophers, and the line has crept to 2.5 over the course of the week.

The total for this game opened at 47 and has seen very little action over the week, but some books have moved this to 47 and a hook. I see value on both of those numbers, but first lets take a look at some trends for this huge Big Ten rivalry.

  • Wisconsin has won 14 of 15 SU against Minnesota
  • Wisconsin is 1-4 ATS in their last five games
  • Wisconsin is 2-2 ATS on the road in 2019
  • Minnesota is 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 games
  • Minnesota is 5-4-1 ATS in their last ten games against Wisconsin
  • The total has gone over in 15 of the last 19 meetings in this rivalry
  • The total has gone over in 4 of Minnesota’s last 5 games

ATS Pick: Wisconsin (-2.5 & Wisconsin ML -135)

Overall, there is a lot that goes into this game to try and unpack, but I think there are a few key areas that the Badgers have an advantage or have help on their side. Most significantly, the Badgers rank toward the top in havoc rating which takes into account sacks, turnovers, and tackles for loss. That to me is significant when you look at Minnesota’s weakest part of their offense, their line. The Gophers currently rank No. 85 in sacks allowed, and will face a big test going against the Badgers front seven that ranks No. 4 in sacks on the season.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

Production has fallen off in that category of late with the Badgers going from 3.5 sacks per game to just 2.3 over their last three weeks, but I expect Jim Leonhard to dial that up again this week in an effort to get to the QB early and often and take some pressure off his secondary. Additionally, the weather is playing right into the Badgers hands in this game. The current forecast calls for 18-22 MPH winds with snow and rain mixed in. That really hampers a passing offense that Minnesota relies on, and plays into a team that plays run heavy.

Over/Under? Under 47

As mentioned above, the weather appears that it is going to be significant in this game and across the country. If this game were being played on a clear, sunny day, the total would be closer to 60, but thankfully for the Badgers it’s not going to be. 18-22 MPH winds is no joke, and should really alter both passing games. That plays into Wisconsin’s hand when you consider how heavily Minnesota relies on not just the pass, but on the deep ball.

Minnesota v Northwestern Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Tanner Morgan ranks top five in yards per completion on the season, meaning big chunk plays is his MO. They’ll hit you underneath with slants and then try to take the top off with big plays. However, if the wind takes that deep ball away, it hurts a huge chunk of the Gopher offense. Both teams can run the ball, and will likely have to, but the Badgers ability to ground and pound is something they rely on much more than Minnesota.

Additionally, the Badgers rank top 10 in rushing defense, so the front seven should slow down a Minnesota rushing attack. With the weather helping to defend the pass, and Wisconsin having the advantage in the front seven, I like this game to play closer to the under here.