The No. 25 ranked USC Trojans (8-5) will take on the Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) in the 2015 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 EST on Wednesday, December 30th and will be televised on ESPN. Taking a look at the college bowl betting lines, oddsmakers currently have USC listed as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 50 points.
The Trojans put together a late season surge to win the Pac-12 South, but were no match for Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, losing 22-41. While making their conference title game would be quite an accomplishment for most teams, USC came into this season with the expectation of playing in the playoffs.
Wisconsin also had a disappointing 2015 campaign, based on what they were expected to do coming into the season. Picked by most experts to win the Big Ten West, the Badgers finished T-2nd in the division with Northwestern at 6-2. Wisconsin did finish the season strong with a 6-1 record over their last 7 games, but the lone loss was a 7-13 defeat at home to Northwestern.
Early Lean on Wisconsin +3.5
The first thing that I look at with any bowl game is motivation and I think the edge here has to go to Wisconsin. I just don’t see USC being all that excited about this game. The Trojans came into this season thinking National Championship and would have likely been headed to a New Year’s six bowl had they beat Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. Now they are forced to play an unranked Wisconsin team in the Holiday Bowl. Very similar scenario to that of their Pac-12 South counterpart in UCLA, who we just watched lose to Nebraska in the Fosters Farm Bowl.
I also think Wisconsin is one of the more underrated teams in the country. While the Badgers don’t have a signature win in 2015, their 3 losses were to the likes of Alabama, Iowa and Northwestern. They weren’t all that competitive in their opener against the Crimson Tide, but arguably should have won at home against the Hawkeyes (outgained Iowa 320-221 in a 4-point loss). They also lost to Northwestern by just 6-points, despite finishing the game with a -5 turnover margin.
I think it’s going to be a lot easier for Wisconsin to get up for USC than it is for the Trojans to get excited about playing the Badgers. This is a chance for Wisconsin to show the rest of the country that they are legit team and that they have been getting overlooked all season. One thing the Badgers have done extremely well, is shut down the opposing teams offense. Wisconsin finished the year ranked 3rd in the country in total defense (allowing just 276.1 ypg). They were strong against both the run (97.9 ypg, 4th) and the pass (169.2 ypg).
Wisconsin is 30-16 ATS in their last 46 games when playing with two or more weeks of rest/preparation.
While USC’s high-powered offense could have their hands full against the Badgers’ stop unit, I think Wisconsin is going to surprise some people with the way they move the ball against the Trojans. A big reason for the Badgers struggles offensively this season, has been the absence of star running back Corey Clement, who was suppose to shoulder the load for the loss of Melvin Gordon. Instead, Clement has played in just 3 games. There’s a good chance Clement has a major role in the bowl game against the Trojans and he could very well be the difference in this game. Keep in mind the last time USC took the field, they gave up 262 rushing yards to the Cardinal and it’s no secret how much the Badgers like to pound the rock.
Wisconsin is 30-16 ATS in their last 46 games when playing with two or more weeks of rest/preparation. The Badgers are also 41-18 ATS in their last 59 games against a quality opponent who has won between 60% to 75% of their games and 32-17 ATS in their last 49 versus strong offensive teams that average 34 or more points/game.
Adding to all of this is a strong system backing the Badgers. Underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points, who are allowing 100 or less rushing yards/game are 70-32 (69%) ATS since 1992 when they come in off a game where they out rushed their previous opponent by 150 or more yards.
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