The Oregon Ducks have a quarterback who could go in the first half of the first round of the NFL draft, and a defensive unit that is very opportunistic. And so they like their chances as they go into the Rose Bowl for a New Year's Day matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers, starting at 5 PM ET in Pasadena. ESPN will televise the game live, and BetAnySports customers will have the opportunity to place wagers on this contest as it is in progress, utilizing the state-of-the-art software from Sports Betting Ultra.
Oregon (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) suffered a bitter loss to Auburn in the season opener. Over the next five games, they outscored their opponents by a whopping margin of 195-25. Then they came down to earth a little with narrow victories over Washington and Washington State, with a loss to Arizona State, but they regrouped in time to roll past Utah 37-15 in the Pac 12 championship game.
At the controls of the offense is Justin Herbert, who had very nice numbers, including 67% completions and a ratio of 32 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He's got a strong arm and the kind of size the NFL scouts like, so it's no wonder that he is being talked about as one of the top three quarterbacks who will go in the NFL Draft. And he's got balance in this attack, with solid receivers and Johnny Johnson and Jaylon Redd and depth in the backfield, featuring CJ Verdell, who destroyed the Utah defense for 208 yards on the ground.
Wisconsin (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) Beat Michigan by three touchdowns and shut out Michigan State 38-0, also registering victories over Iowa and Minnesota. They were upset by up-and-comer Illinois, and lost twice to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the second time coming in a Big 10 title game in which they had Ryan Day's team on the ropes for a while.
They are not a lot different than the Wisconsin teams we have seen through the years, in that they put a lot of size on the offensive line (including All-America center Tyler Biadasz) and are very run-heavy in their approach. And no wonder – Jonathan Taylor was the Doak Walker Award winner this season as the nation's top running back. He scored 21 touchdowns this season and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry for his career.
In the Rose Bowl betting odds that have an posted on this game by our friends at BetAnySports, Wisconsin is the favorite:
Wisconsin Badgers -3 (-105)
Oregon Ducks +3 (-115)
Over 52 points -110
Under 52 points -110
These teams met in the 2012 Rose Bowl, and if you recall, Russell Wilson was kind of a breath of fresh air for Wisconsin as a capable passer, even though the Badgers lost to the Ducks 45-38. Jack Coan is not as dynamic, but he is what this offense needs at the moment, which is a guy who minimizes mistakes (only four interceptions) and completes 70% of his passes. Wisconsin is not going to flood the Oregon secondary with game-breaking receivers, but one pass catcher who will be dangerous is Quintez Cephus (842 yards, 16.2 yards per catch), who has been the subject of much controversy around Madison. Last year, he was arrested for sexually assaulting two women on campus, and was expelled from school. Then there was his trial, where he was found not guilty, and the university readmitted him and reinstated him in time to play this year. That touched off a legal mess that we don't have the space to talk about here.
Oregon gave up only four touchdowns on the ground this season and 3.2 yards per rush attempt. This was a very opportunistic secondary, intercepting 19 passes, tied with Clemson for second best in the nation. And Wisconsin's offensive line, which allowed just 20 sacks, has to be on the lookout for defensive end Keyvon Thibodeaux, who came to Eugene as one of the top freshman recruits in the country and was named defensive freshman of the year in the Pac 12.
But you know, Taylor is something special. I mean, this guy has AVERAGED over 2000 yards per season. And he is obviously able to handle the workload. You won't find a "committee" in the Badger backfield. And as for competing against teams who can "stop the run," Taylor had more than 200 yards against both Michigan and Iowa, and 148 against Ohio State in the conference title game.
Wisconsin ranked eighth in the nation in Total Defense against a schedule that was tougher than that which Oregon faced. They allowed 51% completions, and they have 49 quarterback sacks, so Herbert is going to find out what it's like to face extreme pressure. Let's see what he does with it. This reporter is still a bit skeptical.
Former Wisconsin quarterback Paul Chryst, now head coach at the school, has done a very good job in bowl games, going 5-1 SU and 4-1-1 against the points. We're not sure Oregon's defense is as good as the numbers indicate, but we're quite sure that Wisconsin, which is allowed just 27% third down conversions, is the real deal. We will lay the points with the Badgers in this one.
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