The Wisconsin Badgers posted a 9-3 record this year, finishing the regular season ranked No. 19 in the country. All three of the Badgers losses came by a touchdown or less. They played three teams that were ranked at the time of play, winning two of those three games. Their best game of the season was a seven point loss on the road against Ohio State. The Badgers ended the regular season on a sour note, losing by seven points at home against Penn State.
South Carolina finished the season ranked No. 9 in the country with a 10-2 record. They were outmatched in week two against then ranked No. 11 Georgia, and lose in a very close game on the road versus Tennessee. The Gamecocks were playing in a letdown spot against the Volunteers with No. 5 ranked Missouri on deck. South Carolina when on to beat the Tigers in a double-overtime thriller. They faced a total of three ranked opponents this season and posted a 2-1 record in those games.
Kick-off for the Capital One Bowl will take place Wednesday, January 1st at 1:00 PM ET. You can catch television coverage for this highly anticipated matchup on ABC. The oddsmakers opened this line with Wisconsin favored by two-points, but the line immediately jumped back to even. Some books have even listed South Carolina as a one-point favorite.
Why Wisconsin Covers
The strength of this Badgers team is without a doubt their defensive unit. Wisconsin has held opponents to a mere 14.8 points per game this season. The front seven can be credited for most of Wisconsin’s success. They have held opposing running backs to a mere 102 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. The Badgers have also had a lot of success with their pass rush. Combined with an outstanding secondary Wisconsin is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 51.1 percent pass completion rate and a mere 193 passing yards per game.
This matchup fits into a system to play against a team like South Carolina when they are scoring 34 points per game or more, and facing an excellent defensive team that is allowing 16 points per game or less when they are playing in a non-conference game between two teams in automatic qualifier BCS conferences. This system is 32-12 (73%) ATS over the last five seasons.
While the strength of the team is the defense, the Badgers are also very good on the other side of the ball. Wisconsin is averaging 35.7 points per game, and playing in a Big Ten conference that has some of the best defensive units in the country makes that a very outstanding number. They have a strong run bias, which should serve them well against the Gamecocks. Wisconsin averages 283 rushing yards per game, gaining a whopping 6.6 yards per carry. South Carolina has struggled to stop the run when playing on the road. They are allowing 163 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.
Why South Carolina Covers
Offensively these teams have very similar styles, statistics and end results. The Gamecocks average 42 rushing attempts per game of their 72 total offensive possessions, which is just one rushing attempt less than Wisconsin. They are not gaining quite as much yardage on their 4.9 yards per carry, but they make up for it through the air. The Gamecocks are completed 60.5 percent of their pass attempts for 248 yards per game. They have not been slowed down on the road, throwing for 268 passing yards. The offense as a whole averages 473 yards per game on the road compared to just 401 yards from the Badgers when they are playing away from home.
South Carolina is 22-8 ATS in road games against teams with a rushing defense allowing 3.25 rushing yards per carry or less.
While South Carolina may not have the defensive numbers the Badgers do, I would argue they have faced a much stronger schedule. The SEC is loaded with talent from top to bottom, and they have faced several teams with first round draft picks at the quarterback and running back positions. The Gamecocks are holding opponents to 20 points per game overall. In road games the secondary has held opposing quarterbacks to a 56 percent pass completion rate for a mere 225 passing yards per game. The Badgers may complete a decent amount of their pass attempts, but they are not gaining a lot of yardage along with it. Wisconsin averages just 193 passing yards per game on the road this season.
I have picked Wisconsin to win this game and cover the spread. I think the early action on South Carolina is just the SEC bias getting in the way of actual results. The Badgers could realistically be undefeated this season, and I think they are one of the most underrated teams in the country.