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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM

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The last game on the Saturday Night college football schedule is one of the trickiest ones for handicappers. The Wisconsin Badgers…with a new head coach and a new playing style…visit the Arizona State Sun Devils in a classic Big 10/Pac 12 Showdown.

Why is this so tricky for handicappers?

  • This is Wisconsin’s first road game under their new head coach
  • This is a huge switch in climate from mild Madison to the Arizona desert
  • Wisconsin has only played doormats UMASS and Tennessee Tech!
  • Arizona State started a week later then everyone else
  • Arizona State’s only game also came against a doormat, Sacramento State

There are no meaningful stats from the 2013 season for either team in terms of true expectations against top 50 (or even top 100) competition. You have a new look for the visitor…who many expect to be the superior team this season if not in this particular schedule spot. You have a host who was inconsistent last season, making it tough to pull the trigger with confidence in any given game.

Let’s run through a few numbers and see what we can come up with…

Last Week’s Results

Wisconsin (-44) beat Tennessee Tech 48-0

Arizona State (-38) beat Sacramento State 55-0

Well, they both covered!

Last Week’s Yardage

Wisconsin outgained Tennessee Tech 606-112

Arizona State outgained Sacramento State 523-167

Garbage games…big statistical advantages. Arizona State scored more points with less yardage because of a 4-0 turnover advantage. Just not much for handicappers to chew on. Let’s review the full season numbers for both teams from 2012…keeping in mind that Wisconsin is now coached by Gary Anderson (from Utah State) after Bret Bielema left for Arkansas.

2012 Records

Wisconsin: 8-6 (Lost to Stanford in the Rose Bowl)

Arizona St.: 8-5 (Beat Navy in the Fight Hunger Bowl)

Obviously if you flip bowl opponents, you flip bowl results. Arizona State didn’t play Stanford of the Pac 12 during the regular season…but lost to Oregon, UCLA, and USC. Wisconsin slaughtered Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game…but then couldn’t take out the Cardinal in the Rose Bowl afterward. Wisconsin was seen as the clearly superior team compared to ASU at the end of 2012.

2012 Offense

Wisconsin: 65 in total offense (111 in passing, 13 in rushing)

Arizona St.: 25 in total offense (44 in passing, 25 in rushing)

ASU put up good numbers running Todd Graham’s offense. That’s to be expected in a conference like the Pac 12 that has so many soft defenses and plays at such a fast pace. Wisconsin was a run-heavy team in the extreme. It’s expected that the style will switch dramatically under their new coach. But, they may still try to play like a bulldozer during the transitional period that features prior recruits for a smash-mouth style.

2012 Defense

Wisconsin: 15 in total defense (18 in passing, 24 in rushing)

Arizona St.: 27 in total defense (3 in passing, 81 in rushing)

That stat grading for ASU may surprise many of you. It was surprising us late last year! The team did a very good job of shutting down bad offenses. They were still vulnerable against quality though…so it’s probably best to think of the Sun Devils in the 40-50 range when facing top opposition. Wisconsin was helped by playing in the Midwest. They more than held their own defensively against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Returning Starters (Projected Quarterback)

Wisconsin: 6 on offense, 5 on defense (Joel Stave)

Arizona St.: 6 on offense, 8 on defense (Taylor Kelly)

A great sign for ASU that they return so many on defense. That’s arguably the key factor that’s made Arizona State a favorite of more than a field goal.

Current Vegas Line: Arizona State -5, total of 54

Vegas sportsbooks included this in their “game of the year” lines that went up over the summer. Arizona State opened near pick-em, but was bet up past the touchdown because of their unique home field/climate advantage in this game plus that stellar statistical defense. You can see why sharps would like that side. A best case scenario for ASU has their effective defense shutting down an inexperienced Wisconsin quarterback…running a transitional offense…in a bad body clock game (late at night Wisconsin time), while the offense wears down a Badger defense dealing with heat stroke.

Sounds dominant! What’s to like about Wisconsin? Many still consider them to be the better neutral field team…and you should always take that many points with the better team! The best case scenario for the Badgers is that their size and beef up front controls the line of scrimmage, allowing them to methodically drive the field for points and shorten the game. You can beat the heat by winning time of possession 35 to 25 and keeping your defense off the field.

This game really could swerve in any direction. JIM HURLEY will only include it on his Saturday card if he’s certain he has an edge. But, you can see that this is the kind of matchup that can create BLOWOUT advantages for handicappers! Purchase the final word right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you tomorrow to discuss the Sunday Night Showdown featuring San Francisco and Seattle in the NFL. Now, GO GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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