Bob Stoll of Dr. Bob Sports is one of the most seasoned, successful sports handicappers around. He was one of the first to use advanced analytics in sports handicapping after studying statistics and finance at U.C. Berkeley. You can find his historical college football performance here, and you can subscribe to his service here.
His Strong Opinions have a success rate of about 53.7% since 1999. You can find a Strong Opinion for free below. He has agreed to share some of his lengthy, from-every-angle game previews here.
*MICHIGAN (-10) 31 Wisconsin 14
These two teams are both strong defensively, with Wisconsin allowing just 11.8 points and 279 yards per game at 5.1 yppl and Michigan yielding only 13.8 points and 271 yards per game at 4.4 yppl. My compensated numbers rate Michigan as having the better defense despite Wisconsin allowing a couple fewer points per game and the Wolverines have a huge edge offensively and have better special teams.
Wisconsin has averaged only 5.6 yards per play this season, which is 0.2 yppl worse than the 5.8 yppl that their 4 opponents would allow to an average team. The Badgers’ coaching staff decided to start Alex Hornibrook over Bart Houston at quarterback last week and it made no difference, as the Wisky attack was 0.2 yppl worse than average in their upset win over Michigan State – averaging 4.7 yppl against a Spartans’ defense that would allow 4.9 yppl at home to an average team.
I actually upgraded Wisconsin’s offense with Hornibrook at quarterback, as the pass attack has been more efficient this season when he’s on the field. However, Michigan is the best team in the nation defending the pass, allowing just 49% completions while averaging 4.3 sacks per game. It all adds up to the Wolverines allowing just 3.9 yards per pass play to a collection of quarterbacks that would combine to average 6.8 yppp against an average defensive team.
Michigan is not nearly as strong defending the run but Wisconsin is not the great running team that they have the reputation of being. Last season the Badgers were 0.5 yards per rushing play worse than average (4.5 yprp against teams that would allow 5.0 yprp to an average team), which was blamed on the absence of injured star RB Corey Clement. However, Clement (3.7 ypr on 65 runs this season) and the rest of the Badgers’ running backs as just as bad as they were last season, as that group has averaged only 4.4 yprp in 4 games this season against teams that would allow 4.8 yprp to an average team.
Wisconsin is not a good running team and throwing against the Wolverines is extremely difficult, so I don’t see where the Badgers will find success offensively in this game.
Overall the Michigan defense is 1.3 yppl better than average (4.4 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average team) and that unit held better than average offensive teams Colorado and Penn State to a combined average of 259 yards at 4.3 yppl the last two weeks. That’s not a good sign for the mediocre Badgers’ offense.
Michigan’s offense is much better equipped to have success against a good defense, as the Wolverines have averaged 52 points on 472 yards at 6.5 yppl while facing a schedule of teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team. My math model projects Michigan with an edge of 394 yards at 5.8 yppl to 277 yards at 4.7 yppl for Wisky and the math projects a 14 point Wolverines’ victory.
I upped the margin a few points based on the technical analysis, which is strongly in favor of Big Blue. Wisconsin’s upset at Michigan State sets up the Badgers in a very negative 26-88 ATS road underdog letdown situation while Michigan applies to a 172-83-3 ATS momentum situation.
Wisconsin has a couple of upset wins but the win over LSU has lost some of its luster and I think Michigan State is an overrated team whose signature win was against an even more overrated Notre Dame team. I’ll take Michigan in a 1-Star Best Bet at -10 or less (Strong Opinion at -10 ½ to -12).