Big-game week is here. In a Nebraska context, so is big-spread week.
I was really interested to see where this line would open and how it would move just to get a sense of how these two teams were really being viewed behind the scenes. Vegas Insider is listing the opening line at Wisconsin -7, which is what I first saw it at yesterday. That line was up to Wisconsin -8 in most places on Monday.
Fun fact about that: Barring a major move on that line, Nebraska will head to Wisconsin as the biggest underdog of the Mike Riley era, according to Gold Sheet’s historic logs. Nebraska was a 5.5-point underdog to UCLA last year in the Foster Farms Bowl and a 4.5-point underdog against Michigan State. Unless something wacky happens, this number will hold the “biggest underdog under Riley” mark for only a week, but it does have the title now.
Granted, the Riley era isn’t that long, but it still isn’t very common for Nebraska to be more than a touchdown underdog. The highest lines in 2014 were at Michigan State (-7) and against USC (-7) in the Holiday Bowl. You have to go back to the 2013 bowl game against Georgia (-9) to find the last time a spread favored the Huskers’ opponent by more. The last time Nebraska was a double-digit dog may have been the Huskers’ 2011 trip to Madison, depending upon where you look. Gold Sheet lists that line at Wisconsin -9.5, Phil Steele at Wisconsin -10.
As is my custom this season, I was filling out the McIllece Sports workbook to see what its updated power rankings were projecting for this game. Based on the preseason rankings, McIllece was one of the few outlets giving Nebraska a positive win probability for this game, Nebraska (65%), and listed the score at Huskers 26 Badgers 20, and that score includes a basic home-field adjustment.
But that was seven games ago. Using the updated rankings, McIllece Sports is now showing that game closer to Wisconsin 22 Nebraska 21. (In case you’ve forgotten, last year’s game ended 23-21.)
I don’t expect Nebraska to get much love from the line or in the game predictions this week, but there is at least one place projecting a game that looks more like a top-10 matchup than most of the others will.
THE GRAB BAG
- Massive win for Nebraska volleyball yesterday, capping an impressive weekend. Story and photos from the Huskers’ five-set win over Minnesota.
- Fresno State fired Coach Tim DeRuyter on Sunday with the Bulldogs languishing at 1-7. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin seems to be landing on a lot of potential-replacements lists and I have to admit, it’s kind of intriguing.
- Two Big Ten games were among the three top-rated games on Saturday.
- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said all of the expansion candidates told him they felt they were “treated respectfully.” I’m guessing Bowlsby wouldn’t tell you if he had a lot of complaints, so do with that what you will.
- The Big Ten has changed its fifth tiebreaker for deciding division champs.
TODAY’S SONG OF TODAY
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.