The night-cap of today's four-game bowl slate will feature the Wisconsin Badgers and Oklahoma State Cowboys, both playing with backup quarterbacks. We’ll preview the game and then get into my best bet for the action.
The Wisconsin Badgers will have a much different look next season as they will have a new head coach and quarterback, but as for today, the Badgers will play under interim head coach Jim Leonard with a backup quarterback at the helm. The Badgers finished the regular season with a 6-6 record and lost two out of their last three games.
Offensively the Badgers stuck to their usual offensive gameplan all season and had a rush play percentage of 57.6%, which was 22nd in the country. With a running back like Braelon Allen, it’s unsurprising why they would rely on the rushing game so much as he rushed for 1,121 yards and ten touchdowns on the season. Allen will likely have another high-usage game tonight since both quarterbacks that could start tonight have less than six pass attempts on the season.
On defense, the Badgers will be without three starters, so they will also look a bit different on that side of the ball. The defense ended the regular season ranked 11th in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed, so replacing those three starters tonight will be a challenging task.
Luckily for Wisconsin, they won’t be the only team tonight trying to replace key regular-season starters. Oklahoma State lost both their starting quarterback and running back to the transfer portal, along with three defensive starters as well.
It will be up to either Gunnar Gundy or Garret Rangel to replace long-time starting quarterback Spencer Sanders. Both backup quarterbacks played in place of Sanders while he was injured at the end of the season. Ollie Gordon will likely be tasked with replacing running back Dominic Richardson, who rushed for 543 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys can be found as +3.5 point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them in this one. Wisconsin may have a strong run game, but they still struggled to produce offense the last three weeks of the season, and that was with their starting quarterback. Having to play with an inexperienced backup quarterback and a backup center tonight, I don’t think the Badgers have what it takes to cover just outside a football number.
Oklahoma State did not put together the strongest defensive season, but they excelled at one thing in particular: getting off the field on third down. The Cowboys' defense was second in the country in third-down conversion rate at 27.1%, so if they can continually stop Braelon Allen on third down and consistently hand the ball back to their young quarterback, they should be able to keep this game close.
Wisconsin failed to cover as favorites in their last three regular-season games, and that was with their entire starting defense. With both Oklahoma State quarterbacks getting valuable playing time, I trust they can settle into this game quicker than the Badgers' backups and put points on the board.
Oklahoma State (+3.5)