Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 4:00 PM
No remaining major contender for the Final Four has had it so easy. The Wisconsin Badgers are still undefeated because they had an easy non-conference schedule, and also play in the weaker half of the Big 10. Iowa was a potential threat last week, but offered little resistance in a huge letdown spot after an upset of Ohio State.
It’s telling that this week’s Wisconsin home game against Michigan is the first real threat…and even that doesn’t seem very hard! Michigan has been a big disappointment this season. They were supposed to be part of a “Big Three” in the Big 10 East…that turned out to be a Big Two without them. The early line has Wisconsin favored by just over a touchdown, though the public might drive that higher through the week.
All that said, the Wolverines do have a chance to make Wisconsin miserable. You saw what happened last week when one-dimensional Georgia wasn’t able to run on Auburn’s stout defense. And, you saw that happened last week when run-heavy Notre Dame ran into a fired up Miami Hurricanes’ defense that charged the point of attack and made the Irish backfield miserable.
Michigan has a great, aggressive defense. And, Wisconsin’s offense becomes helpless when they have to pass. The Badgers committed FOUR turnovers last week in the win over Iowa, including two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Michigan’s defenders are capable of that, while not having to deal with any sort of letdown fatigue off a huge game. The Wolverines were coasting vs. Maryland last week in a tune-up.
Does that mean Michigan is a lock to spring the upset? No. Michigan’s offense still leaves a lot to be desired. They may not be able to score much of anything on the road against a top defense. Michigan’s defense may have to do EVERYTHING, including scoring enough points to win. Or, perhaps a special teams return will help Michigan get something on the board.
JIM HURLEY believes the key to this game will be Wisconsin’s mindset.
*If Wisconsin’s players still see themselves as an underdog with something to prove (in terms of the playoff process), then we’ll see a motivated effort that will match what Auburn and Miami brought to the table last week. Those programs sent messages. Wisconsin is capable of winning just as big, facing an offense that’s worse than what Georgia and Notre Dame brought to the field. This could be a replay of Iowa/Wisconsin too, for that matter (382-66 in total yardage).
*But, if Wisconsin’s players no see themselves as having to protect the position they’ve earned, knowing that a win over Ohio State in the Big 12 Championship game will be needed to reach the Final Four…then this is a true danger spot. Already conservative Wisconsin will play it even more safely (never a good thing for November point spread favorites), while being stuck in a version of a “sandwich” spot between the blowout of Iowa and that looming matchup down the road with Ohio State. Coaches can say “one game at a time” all they want. Players don’t always listen. (We’ll know Tuesday night whether Wisconsin is “just in” or “just out” of the top four when ESPN broadcasts the release of the new Playoff Poll.)
There’s a ton of volatility in play here…because the game could easily blow up in either direction. That’s why you need JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
Our SCOUTS AND SOURCES will report from Big 10 country to let us know how the Badgers and Wolverines are preparing for this battle. Again, mindset could turn out to be EVERYTHING in this game.
But, just in case it’s not, our STATHEADS are supplying our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS with critical information for our simulations. We need to account for every possibility. We’re even including Jim Harbaugh’s time at Stanford in the analytic mix! NETWORK’S handicapping machinery was state of the art before anybody even knew what the internet was.
Finally, our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas, offshore, and around the world will let us know what the smart money is doing throughout the week. That will help us maximize line value for our game-day clients.
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Back with you this weekend to talk NFL. Now, go get all those BIG, JUICY FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!