Going on the road to Wisconsin for a night game is never easy. Given the Badgers two weeks to prepare due to a bye week, and you have a recipe for potential disaster for the #2 ranked Buckeyes.
While Ohio State has mostly dominated opponents so far, this is a very young team, and Wisconsin took advantage of that early in the game with jet sweeps and other plays to keep the Ohio State defense off balance.
Also, freshman Alex Hornibrook played very well, and this kid is poised to become a star in the Big Ten in years to come. He’s big and has real poise in the pocket, and he completed big passes against the Ohio State defense for most of the game.
Meanwhile, JT Barrett struggled in the first half. He’s inconsistent as a passer, and how he plays might determined whether the Buckeyes can win another National Championship this year. But Barrett is a competitor, and he came up big in the second half as the Buckeyes rallied to a win in overtime.
So this was a surprise for many. Sparty looked great last week whipping Notre Dame, but then got smacked at home by Wisconsin.
The Big Ten looks pretty tough this season with their impressive nonconference wins, and now we’ll see which teams will emerge. Michigan State seems to play well as underdogs, but then under-perform when they’re favorites.
For the Badgers, redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook took over as the starter and played very well.
The Badgers tried to give this game away, but they made the plays in the fourth quarter to finish off an impressive upset over #5 LSU at Lambeau Field. The Badgers can celebrate while Big Ten fans throw some shade at the SEC.
Meanwhile, Les Miles came into this season with very high expectations after he almost got pushed out the door in the offseason. A loss on the road against Wisconsin won’t by itself ruin the season for LSU. They’ll have plenty of shots at redemption in the touch SEC with Leonard Fournette leading the way. But now Les will have to listen to all the doubters again as the season progresses. And LSU will need to play better if they want to turn the tables against Alabama.
Mississippi vs. Alabama, 6:30PM ET
Alabama doesn’t look as dominant as it has in year’s past, and bettors have taken notice. The spread in this game has been bet down from one key number of 17, to another key number in 14. The Rebels have fared well against the Tide, covering in all four of their last four meetings with ‘Bama in Tuscaloosa. They’re also 6-2 against the spread in their last eight meetings overall with the Tide, while the road team is 5-0 against the number in the last five meetings between these two teams. Ole Miss has a balanced offensive attack thanks to quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti, who is a running threat. The Rebels enter tonight’s game with plenty of confidence and should stay within two touchdowns of a Tide team that didn’t look sharp defensively two weeks ago versus A&M. FREE PICK: OLE MISS +14
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State, 8:00PM ET
The Buckeyes have been flat-out dominant in their first three games and own the fourth-highest scoring offense in the country (52.5 points). But Braxton Miller is set to return tonight following a sprained left MCL injury suffered a few weeks ago. Rust might be a factor in the early going, which could give Wisconsin confidence for the rest of the game. The underdog is 10-3 against the spread in the last 13 meetings between these two teams and the Badgers are 4-0 against the number in their last four games overall. They’re also 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 conference games and have rushed for 387 yards or more in three of their four games. Look for Wisconsin to give Ohio State its first challenge of the season. FREE PICK: WISCONSIN +6.5
Bengals vs. Browns, 1:00PM ET
The Bengals are coming off two emotional victories against Pittsburgh and Green Bay, and now has to travel to Cleveland and play a team in the Browns that they’re expected to beat. There’s always value in the home underdog, especially one in Cleveland that shocked bettors a week ago by beating Minnesota outright as a 6.5-point dog. The line in this game has been bet down from 5 to 3.5 despite the public siding with Cincinnati. The underdog is 10-1-1 against the spread in the last 12 meetings between these two teams and the Bengals are just 2-5-1 against the number in their last eight games versus the Browns. Look for a confident Cleveland team behind Brian Hoyer to keep this game within a field goal. FREE PICK: BROWNS +3.5
Seahawks vs. Texans, 1:00PM ET
The Seahawks look every bit a Super Bowl contender in the early going. They suffered no letdown last Sunday when they thumped a brutal Jacksonville team a week after crushing division rival San Francisco on Sunday Night Football. But the Seahawks have never been a team that travels well and the Texans are licking their wounds after being embarrassed in Baltimore last week. Houston knows it can’t afford to fall behind in the AFC South, especially with Indianapolis playing Jacksonville this week. Look for the underdog Texans to win outright as a small home dog. FREE PICK: TEXANS +1
Russell Wilson is not unknown to Heisman voters. Three (I, II, III) of the major “Heisman Watch” lists have him in, or around, the top five.
That’s probably a good spot for the Wisconsin quarterback, who has been great early on, but against suspect competition.
Through four games, Wilson — who spent his first three seasons at NC State before taking advantage of the NCAA’s graduate-level transfer rule — has completed 75.8% of his passes for 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns, while throwing just one interception. He’s leading a Wisconsin offense that’s sixth in the nation scoring 48.5 points per game, and he’s done this while the Badgers have taken their foot off the gas pedal late in games thanks to huge leads.
Tonight, Wilson and Wisconsin play Nebraska in their Big Ten opener, and with a great performance, Wilson could find himself near, if not at the top of those lists. Nebraska is a big-time, storied program that has long been known for its defensive prowess. Even if the Huskers finish the season around where they are in scoring defense (46th at 22 points per game), putting up big numbers against them is going to cause voters’ eyes to light up.
It’s also the weekend’s showcase game, as it will be on ABC at 8 p.m. (EST). If Alabama does to Florida what I’m expecting it to, most of the country’s eyes will be on this game and this game alone. That’s the perfect storm for Wilson’s Heisman campaign. Of course it could also work against him. If Wilson has a bad game in a loss, it will be remembered by voters into December. If his running back Montee Ball goes nuts — which he is certainly capable of — voters might question the importance Wilson to the Badgers.
That’s not going to happen, though. Expect Wilson to be let loose, both through the air and with his feet, and expect to wake up Sunday hearing his name mentioned with “Heisman frontrunner” attached to it.