Regardless of whether the betting line can be rationalized, it's always surprising when the University of Wisconsin football team is a double-digit underdog, as is the case for Saturday's Big Ten Conference opener at Nebraska.

As of Monday afternoon, the Cornhuskers were favored by 13 points, according to We cite this figure for recreational purposes only, of course, and because there is some value in that it provides an educated perspective on how these teams are perceived after four games.

Only three other times during Bret Bielema's six-plus seasons as coach have the Badgers been such big underdogs. In each case, UW was the road team. In each case, the favorite covered the spread, albeit not without a fight.

  • No. 9 Ohio State was giving 16 points in 2009 in Columbus and won 31-13 thanks in large part to returning two Scott Tolzien interceptions for scores.
  • No. 1 Ohio State was giving 16 points in 2007 as well in Columbus and won 38-17, scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half.
  • No. 6 Michigan was giving 13 points in 2006 in Ann Arbor in Bielema's Big Ten debut and won 27-13, a game that was deadlocked at 10 until late in the third quarter.

This was a relative rarity for much of former coach Barry Alvarez's tenure as well. Starting with the 1993 Big Ten championship season, just nine times in 12 seasons was Wisconsin a double-digit underdog, with all but one of those matchups coming on the road.

Alvarez's teams clearly relished this status as giant underdogs. The Badgers won three of those games outright and allowed the favorite to cover just twice.

For those of you interested in more of this type of info, here's a complete rundown of the Badgers' odds in every football game from 1992-2010, from Phil Steele.


Badgers football as double-digit underdogs

A look at the 13 occasions since the 1993 Big Ten Conference championship season in which the University of Wisconsin football team has been a double-digit underdog.

Year Spread Location Opponent Result vs. spread
2009 +16 Columbus, Ohio No. 9 Ohio State L, 31-13 L
2007 +16 Columbus, Ohio No. 1 Ohio State L, 38-17 L
2006 +13 Ann Arbor, Mich. No. 6 Michigan L, 27-10 L
2005 +12 State College, Pa. No. 5 Penn State L, 35-14 L
2002 +10 Ann Arbor, Mich. No. 12 Michigan L, 21-14 W
2001 +11 Columbus, Ohio No. 21 Ohio State W, 20-17 W
2001 +10 Eugene, Ore. No. 7 Oregon L, 31-28 W
1997 +15 State College, Pa. No. 6 Penn State L, 35-14 L
1997 +14 Madison No. 1 Michigan L, 26-16 W
1996 +26 Columbus, Ohio No. 2 Ohio State L, 17-14 W
1995 +13 State College, Pa. No. 6 Penn State W, 17-9 W
1994 +14 Ann Arbor, Mich. No. 10 Michigan W, 31-19 W