I actually agree with you that this came is a tough "nut" to crack. I could certainly see OSU winning by two or three touchdowns. I can also think of a lot of ways the Badgers can win, although not by two or three touchdowns. To me, when you've got so many options, this is like trying to read a putt and you can't even tell which way it will break, much less how much. I learned long ago what to do in that situation: aim at the hole. Translation: I think this will be a close game.
Like you, I went 2-0 on last week's predictions, although I won the mini-battle by almost nailing the final score (I predicted 38-10; actual score 41-10.)
This week I'm taking the Badgers with the points and the over, while you're taking the Buckeyes to cover and the under. (I'm curious if you have a final score prediction?) So we might get some separation. (More likely is that we'll both go 1-1, one way or the other.) Given that the Badgers haven't lost by more than 7 points since ... well, I can't remember ... I think the 7.5 spread is an absolute gift.
Other than my golf analogy, I have a few other equally squishy reasons for picking the Badgers in this one:
- The law of averages. The Buckeyes have won 16 in a row, including a lot of lucky, close wins. How long can this continue? The Badgers have lost heartbreak after ridiculous heartbreak. How long can that continue? I'm betting those streaks come to an end.
- Overconfidence. I see it in the Buckeye fan base, and I suspect it in the players. They think that Wisconsin has been lucky to go three straight Rose Bowls, and don't properly appreciate how good the program is. This very entertaining piece says it all, calling Wisconsin "the most mediocre tyrant the Big Ten has ever seen." It's fair to put a big fat asterisk next to last year's Rose Bowl. But to deny the quality of the previous two teams is nonsense. Remember: one of those teams had JJ Watt and the other had Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, and Nick Toon. In fact, here's a ridiculous stat: 9 of the 11 players who started for the Badgers on offense in the 2011 Rose Bowl made an NFL roster this year (the other two were Ike Anderson and Jacob Pederson, who will get a shot next year).
- Stave. I agree he hasn't played all that well this year. But we know he can throw the ball. He has made some terrible throws when he's had wide-open receivers. But he's also made some very good throws. Other than the dropped snaps, he's made really only one boneheaded play all year. (Last week's interception was Wozniak's fault, as was obvious and has been admitted by everyone involved.) I'm betting we see at least one more great half out of him on Saturday. Probably the first half.
- Melvin Gordon III. Stars shine when the sun goes down. Gordon really looks like something special, and I think he will continue his scintillating season with a huge performance on national television. I think we will look back at this year (and hopefully next year) and marvel about that time when Melvin Gordon and Sam Dekker were on the UW campus at the same time.
- Defense. We agree that the Badgers defense is for real. It will win this game with a goal line stand. Or two.
So there you have it: Badgers 28, Buckeyes 27.