Badgers Favored by Public Bettors to Down Arkansas in Capital One Bowl
57% of Bets Placed on Wisconsin +2 | Matchup | CFB Picks
Wisconsin's only loss kept it out of a Bowl Championship Series game. One special player helped make sure Arkansas finally made another postseason appearance.
The sixth-ranked Badgers (11-1), denied a BCS bid partially because of a weak schedule, face Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden and the No. 12 Razorbacks (10-3) in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.
Oddsmakers have made Arkansas -2 point spread favorites
Along with top-ranked Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan, Wisconsin is one of three Big Ten teams ranked in the top 10, but the only one that will not play in a BCS game. The Badgers' lone loss was to the Wolverines - the only ranked opponent Wisconsin faced.
``We're excited to play the University of Arkansas,'' said Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, the Big Ten coach of the year. ``We knew whoever came on the plate this year was going to present an excellent opportunity. Outside of the BCS mix, I'm sure this is a very exciting matchup for everybody.''
Bielema's team suffered from playing in a weak conference - something that in the end required them to defeat Michigan to get into a BCS bowl. The Badgers couldn't do it, falling 27-13 at Ann Arbor on Sept. 23, and even an eight-game winning streak to close the season wasn't enough.
Arkansas, meanwhile, was the most surprising team in the SEC, widely regarded as the country's toughest conference this season. The Razorbacks rebounded from a 50-14 loss to USC in the season opener to win 10 in a row and make the conference title game.
Two straight losses at the end of the season, including a 38-28 defeat to No. 2 Florida in the SEC championship game Dec. 2, hardly diminished what Arkansas accomplished.
The Razorbacks will be playing their first New Year's Day game since losing to Oklahoma in the 2002 Cotton Bowl. It will also be their first bowl game since beating Missouri in the Independence Bowl in 2003.
Much of the Razorbacks' success is due to the emergence of McFadden as one of the nation's most dynamic players. The sophomore lines up all over the field, causing matchup problems for opposing defenses.
McFadden ran for 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns, and scored on one of his eight kickoff returns. He's also used at wide receiver and quarterback, and has thrown three touchdown passes.
``He's able to ... have a great burst as well as be able to knock some people down in the process,'' Bielema said. ``We need to be able to tackle effectively.''
McFadden isn't the only running back the Badgers must worry about. McFadden lining up at quarterback allows Arkansas to get Felix Jones, who rushed for 1,018 yards and averaged 7.3 per carry, into the game.
Arkansas averages 30.0 points per game despite some inconsistent play at quarterback, with Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain splitting time. While coach Houston Nutt named Dick the starter for this game on Dec. 20, he said Mustain will also play.
``Both of them had great attitudes, both of them worked extremely hard and both of them deserve to play,'' Nutt said. ``We are going start out with Casey. He will take the first two series and then Mitch will come in for the third series and then we will play it from there.''
Dick has completed 50 percent of his passes for 893 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions.
High-scoring Arkansas will be facing one of the nation's top defenses. The Badgers are third in the country in scoring defense at 11.9 points per game, and are allowing only 105.0 rushing yards a contest.
Wisconsin features its own top running back in P.J. Hill, the Big Ten leader with 1,533 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hill was named Big Ten freshman of the year by both the coaches and the media, and was picked as first-team all-conference by the media and was a second-team selection by the coaches.
``I think (the running game) is going to be a big part of the game when you see their tailback, their offensive line and our offensive line and our tailbacks because that's what we both do,'' Nutt said.
Wisconsin should have the edge at quarterback with John Stocco, who's completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,979 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Offensive tackle Joe Thomas has helped keep Stocco free from pressure while sparking the push up front for Hill's runs. Thomas is a first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the media and coaches.
The Badgers, however, may be without All-Big Ten cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu, who has been suspended by the team. He's facing burglary and trespassing charges along with his twin brother.
Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said Ikegwuonu was suspended from competition and practice, but his status could change as more facts become available. Ikegwuonu and his brother were arrested Saturday in DeKalb, Ill. after being accused of breaking into an off-campus apartment and trying to steal an Xbox game console.
The brothers face residential burglary and criminal trespass charges.
The Badgers are 9-8 in bowl games, including victories in nine of their last 13. This is the 12th bowl appearance in the past 14 seasons for Wisconsin, including a school record-tying five straight.
The Badgers are playing in the Capital One Bowl for the second straight season. They beat Auburn 24-10 on Jan. 2.
``We are excited about the matchup,'' Nutt said. ``Their program has been very good. Anytime you win 11 games, you know you are doing something right. I'm sure they have a lot of confidence. We haven't played Wisconsin very often so this is going to be good.''
Arkansas last played in the Capital One Bowl in the 1998 season, Nutt's first as Razorbacks coach. The game was still called the Citrus Bowl then, and Arkansas lost to Tom Brady and Michigan 45-31.
Arkansas has played Wisconsin once before, losing 64-7 at Madison on Nov. 9, 1912.
by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us
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