The No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers square off against the No. 19 Auburn Tigers on Thursday, January 1st in the 2014 Outback Bowl. This SEC vs. Big Ten battle will take place in Tampa, FL inside Raymond James Stadium.

Auburn (8-4, 4-4 SEC) wound up finishing in a tie for fourth in the SEC West this season after making it all the way to the national title game last year. The Tigers are 22-14-2 all-time in bowl games. They lost to Florida State 31-34 in the BCS Championship last season.

Wisconsin (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten) made it to the Big Ten Championship this season only to get blown out by Ohio State 59-0. The Badgers are 11-14 all-time in bowl games. They have lost four straight bowls after falling 24-34 to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl last year.

Kickoff for the 2014 Outback Bowl is scheduled for 12:00 EST on New Year’s Day with ESPN 2 providing the television coverage. Taking a look at the lines in Las Vegas, I find Auburn installed as a 6.5-point favorite over Wisconsin with a total set of 63.5 points.

My Early Lean: Auburn -6.5

I was one of the biggest Auburn haters coming into the season that you will find. They were extremely fortunate to win the SEC and make it to the national title game last year as they won a ridiculous amount of close games along the way and got every break to go their way. Their season win total was set at 9.5 and it was one of my favorite ‘under’ bets coming into the year.

I wasn’t so sure I was going to cash that bet until the Tigers lost three of their final four games to close out the season. It was also very profitable to fade this team all year against the spread as they wound up with just a 4-8 ATS record. So, my instinct was correct on them being overvalued this season. However, I now am reversing roles and looking to back them as they are undervalued coming into the bowl game.

Indeed, Auburn has failed to cover the spread in four straight and six of their last seven. They have burned the betting public time and time again, and now the public wants nothing to do with them. When this happens, you can find a lot of value in backing these teams, and I believe that to be the case in this game. There’s no way Auburn should be laying less than a touchdown to Wisconsin.

For starters, the Tigers play in the toughest division in the country in the SEC West. Had they played in any other division in America, they would have probably won that division. There are no easy outs in the SEC West, and Auburn found that out the hard way, losing four games to Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.

I actually faded Auburn in the Alabama game thinking that the Tigers were going to get rolled. While the Crimson Tide did end up covering in an 11-point home win as 10-point favorites, I never felt like they deserved to cover as they trailed for most of the game. Auburn actually racked up 630 total yards on that Alabama defense, outgaining the Crimson Tide by 91 total yards in the game. It was that performance that makes me know that the Tigers are still a very good team and one of the best in the country.

Auburn actually racked up 630 total yards on that Alabama defense, outgaining the Crimson Tide by 91 total yards in the game.

Wisconsin beat up on a very easy schedule this season coming from the Big Ten, which is the worst of the power five conferences. It managed to avoid BOTH Ohio State and Michigan State from the other division, and that fact alone made it the favorites to win its division. It wasn’t easy as the Badgers had to beat Minnesota 34-24 at home in the season finale to get into the championship game.

It was in that championship game that the Badgers’ true colors showed. They were outplayed in every phase of the game by Ohio State, losing that game 59-0 while getting outgained by 300 total yards. The Badgers managed just 258 yards and gave up 558 yards. I believe that Auburn is a better team than Ohio State, and while I don’t expect the Tigers to win this game by 59, I do expect them to win by a touchdown or more with relative ease.

Auburn was very good on both sides of the football this year. It put up 35.8 points, 489.6 yards per game and 6.7 per play against teams that only gave up 23.5 points, 371 yards per game and 5.3 per play. The Tigers gave up 26.1 points, 389.2 yards per game and 5.6 per play against teams that averaged 31.4 points, 417 yards per game and 5.9 per play.

Conversely, Wisconsin’s numbers look good on paper, but when you factor in the strength of opponents played, they no longer look that great. They played one of the easiest schedules in the country with their 10 wins coming against the likes of Western Illinois, Bowling Green, South Florida, Northwestern, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Not one of those teams is near the caliber of two of the three teams they lost to in LSU and Ohio State.

Auburn is 9-1 ATS after scoring 42 or more points in its last game over the last two seasons. It is coming back to win by an average of 15.5 points per game in this spot. The Tigers are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games after allowing 7.25 or more yards per play in their last game. They are winning by 14.1 points per game in this spot. The Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last six bowl games. The Badgers are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games following a loss by more than 20 points. Wisconsin is 0-4 ATS in its last four neutral site games.

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