As we head into bowl season, MTS’ cadre of experts will be previewing the best matchups on tap for college football’s postseason. We’ll also look at the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl because it exists and you can bet on it. So stick with us all the way from the AFR Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17th to the national championship game on Jan. 9th.
Let’s take a closer look at …
The Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan vs Wisconsin (-8, 53.5)
Monday, January 2nd, 2016 (1:00 PM Eastern) at AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX.
The game was played at Cotton Bowl stadium from its inception until 2010, when it was moved to AT&T Stadium.
Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Bo Jackson, Sammy Baug, Ernie Davis, and Eli Manning are just a few of the notable players to be named Cotton Bowl MVP, but only Dexter McCluster has ever won the award twice.
Wisconsin is just the third Big Ten team to ever participate in a Cotton Bowl.
A Closer Look at Western Michigan (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS)
The surprise of the non-power five conferences, Western Michigan is chasing the first undefeated season since Florida State accomplished the feat in 2013. Sure, the Broncos haven’t played what the committee might call “a real team;” in fact their strength of schedule supposedly ranks 123. But they did cruise to only their third MAC championship in team history, and will now get a chance to win just their second bowl game on one of college’s biggest stages.
Sparked on by receiver Corey Davis, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns and a projected first rounder, the Broncos had a top ten offense. Ranking ninth in total yardage, and eight in points per game, Western Michigan moved the ball at will and rarely gave it away, finishing with the fewest turnovers in college football. Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 3,376 yards, 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions, while the run game was led by Jarvion Fraklin and Jamauri Bogan (combining for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns).
The offense may be loaded with weapons, but the defense is no slouch either. The Broncos finished 16th in the nation in points allowed, and generated a whopping 26 takeaways.
While it’s easy to chalk up the Broncos impressive numbers to playing a weak schedule, Western Michigan did beat a pair of Big Ten teams this season; knocking off Northwestern and Illinois.
A Closer Look at Wisconsin (10-3 SU, 9-3-1 ATS)
Schedule-wise, things couldn’t have been any tougher for the Badgers this year. All three of their losses were by one score, and all came at the hands of teams who finished top six in the CFP rankings. Still, the Badgers reward is getting to be huge favorites to win their first Cotton Bowl in school history.
In their second season under Paul Chyst, Wisconsin had their second-straight year with double digit wins. Led by one of the top defenses in the country, the Badgers overwhelmed opposing offenses, while there’s did just enough to win. Wisconsin ranked fourth in the nation in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed. With J.J. Watt’s younger brother T.J. leading the pass rush, the Badgers forced the opposition into throwing 21 interceptions on the year.
Offensively, the Badgers ran the ball well, and that was about it. They churned out 204 yards per game on the ground, but their dual-quarterback system of Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston was disappointing at best.
As a ground and pound team, the Badgers were a good bet this season, but they weren’t great when favored by more than a touchdown, going 3-2-1 against the spread.
Who Should You Back?
Western Michigan (+8)
The group of five representative for the New Year’s six has won the last three years (UCF over Baylor, Boise State over Arizona, Houston over Florida State). While that’s a nice run, I’m not taking Western Michigan for the belief that they’ll win. But they do have the offensive talent to keep this game close, and Wisconsin’s last three bowl wins came by two, three and six points.
Photo Credit: MGoBlog (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/]