Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin, 1/2/17 - Prediction

Game Snapshot

#278 University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers
vs.
#277 Western Michigan University Broncos

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Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Western Michigan Broncos (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS, 7-6 O/U) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (10-3 SU, 9-3-1 ATS, 6-7 O/U)

NCAAF: Monday, January 2, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST

The Line: Wisconsin Badgers -7.5. Total: 54

This season’s Cotton Bowl will pit the Wisconsin Badgers against the Western Michigan Broncos at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. on Jan. 2. Wisconsin once had Rose Bowl hopes and even College Football Playoff aspirations, but it fell to Penn State in the Big Ten title game. The Broncos are a perfect 13-0 and champions of the MAC.

A new experience

Western Michigan has played a January bowl game just once in program history, and even that was the International Bowl (2007)–which obviously pales in comparison to the Cotton Bowl. According to current head coach P.J. Fleck, his players have only seen AT&T Stadium while playing “Madden” video games.

“I know that was one of the first things they talked about–‘We get to play in the Jerry Dome,'” Fleck said soon after the Broncos accepted their invitation. “‘We get to play in the AT&T Stadium.’ And the biggest thing they talked about was the scoreboard. They used to think our scoreboards were big. The problem now is they’re going to play in front of a hundred thousand people. And then they’re going to look at the scoreboard and they’re going to come back to Waldo Stadium. They’re going to look at our scoreboard and say, ‘Coach, can we get a bigger scoreboard?'”

Although the program may not be used to big-time billing, it boasts a receiver who is without question a big-time player. Corey Davis recently set the FBS record for career receiving yards; he currently has 5,212. This season he owns a career-best 91 catches for 1,427 yards and a career-best 18 touchdowns. By comparison, only six Wisconsin players have ever caught 18 touchdown passes in their entire careers. As for the Badgers’ defense, it was stellar for much of the 2016 regular season but allowed 384 passing yards and four TDs through the air against Penn State.

Looking for redemption

This will also mark the final game in the career of Badgers’ running back Corey Clement. The senior has rushed 292 times for career-highs in yards (1,304) and touchdowns (14). In four seasons, Clement has 554 carries for 3,021 yards and 35 scores. His last conference game, however, ended in disappointment. Although Clement gained 164 yards and scored a touchdown on 21 attempts (for a season-best 7.8 average) in addition to a season-best 43 receiving yards on three catches, he was stopped on a must-convert fourth-and-1 situation with Wisconsin needing a touchdown it its 38-31 Big Ten Championship loss to Penn State.

Clement has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of his last eight outings.

“It starts up front,” he said of the Badgers’ rushing attack. “My hat’s off to the 0-line for doing their prep earlier in the week which allows my patience to connect with those guys. It’s all about being relaxed and patient with this o-line, because they work in such a fantastic way that you have to allow them to set up the blocks the way they needed to.”

NCAAF Trends:

The Western Michigan Broncos are:

  • 27-11 ATS in their last 38 overall
  • 7-0 ATS last seven non-conference games
  • 4-0 ATS in their last four games against the Big Ten

The Wisconsin Badgers are:

  • 0-4 ATS in their last four neutral-site games as favorites
  • 4-0 Over in their last four overall
  • 8-3 Over in their last 11 neutral-site games

Although this is a are Big Ten vs. MAC matchup, the two teams shared three common opponents during the regular season. Wisconsin prevailed at Northwestern 21-7, clobbered Illinois 48-3 at home, and crushed visiting Akron 54-10. Western Michigan won at Northwestern 22-21 to kick off the 2016 campaign, dominated at Illinois 34-10, and posted a 41-0 road shutout of Akron. In other words, the Broncos just about held their own in the department of common opponents. This should be an especially intriguing matchup between the Badgers’ defense and a Western Michigan offense that is first in the MAC in scoring and second in yards. As for motivation level, WMU must be jumping for joy at the chance to play in Jerry World whereas the Badgers would rather be in Pasadena. More than one touchdown should be enough for the Broncos to cover.

Pick: Western Michigan Broncos +7.5

Western Michigan is not just happy to be here. This is a team that has proven in the past they can beat Big 10 squads. They did put up 22 points against Northwestern in the opener and 34 against Illinois. The Badgers struggled defensively against Penn State in the Big 10 team. Defensively, they could struggle against the pass. Offensively, Clement should have his way thanks to that big offensive line. Wisconsin is 4-0 Over last 4 overall, while Western Michigan is 4-1 Over last 5 bowl games.

Total: Over 54

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Ricky Dimon

A 2006 graduate of Davidson College, Ricky is a freelance sports writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has previously worked with various websites in the sports handicapping industry and is generally a fan of going with the hot hand while in most cases showing a willingness to take favorites and give the points. Beyond the four major sports, Ricky is an avid tennis fan—and writer—and covers the ATP Tour on a daily basis.