The Wisconsin Badgers completed their 2017 campaign with an overall record of 13-1 and a 9-5 record against the spread. They were an impressive 5-1 against the spread on the road and overall were a very exciting and balanced team.
The 2018 campaign commences with high hopes as Wisconsin is a legitimate national title contender. The team is led by a very consistent offense and overall balance. The team averaged 33.8 points per game last year and returns 9 offensive starters. Heisman Candidate Jonathan Taylor returns as a Sophomore and will rack up considerable yards on the ground. As a Freshman, Taylor ran for nearly 2000 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 6.6 yards per carry average.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook is capable but not spectacular. Despite the impressive win total, he threw for a considerable amount of interceptions and will need to improve to compete for a Big Ten Championship and be part of the National Title picture. His most talented receiver was Quintez Cephus who played well despite missing considerable time with an injury. Overall the receiving corps is deep and talented. With Taylor’s consistency combined with four capable receivers, the offense will be extremely balanced. It further benefits from the return of all starters on the offensive line. Overall, we expect Wisconsin to improve off the 33.8 points per game last year and cover many spreads this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, the unit was strong last season allowing only 13.9 points per game. However, only four starters return so there may be some growing pains. The primary returnees are interior defenders, which could mean the Badgers are vulnerable to big strikes. The last three years featured average defensive points against below 16, but we anticipate that number will rise this year. With the proficiency on offense and the vulnerabilities early on defense, we anticipate many early season affairs to be potentially some good over spots.
The over under wins total for Wisconsin is 10 and the odds to win the Big Ten is +180. The win total over is a solid play. The Badgers have a relatively easy schedule this season, especially out of conference. The toughest slated games are road affairs at Michigan and at Penn State. We anticipate a split of these two games and a final regular season record of 11-1. With the respect to the Conference Championship, there is a lot of uncertainty with the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Irwin Meyer issues. These off the field distractions could cause issued this season and potentially a team like Michigan ends up in the Championship Game. Against either Michigan or Ohio State, Wisconsin has a solid chance to win the Conference Championship Game. In addition, we do not see a scenario where Wisconsin would not win the Big Ten West, so at worst case, there will be an opportunity to hedge a bet in the Championship Game. Overall. we recommend the over win total and a modest bet to win the conference.
The 2018 season opens with Western Kentucky and the Badgers will win this game handily. The opening line sits at around 34, but we do not think it is unreasonable. Western Kentucky gives up a lot of points and at the same time will be losing 8 offensive starters, including a quarterback who threw for over 4100 yards last season. Expect the Badgers to win big in the opening week despite the defensive inexperience.
Week #2 is a home game against New Mexico. New Mexico finished 2017 with a 3-9 record in the Mountain West and gave up a ton of points to above average teams last season, including 55 at Texas A&M. Wisconsin should again roll here, but beware of too high a line if the Badgers win by 6 or 7 touchdowns in Week 1.
Week #3 is another home game against BYU. BYU was traditionally an above average program, but tailed off considerably last season, particularly offensively. We expect Wisconsin to also handle business in this spot rather easily and will reserve judgment on whether the game is playable as we get closer to Week #3.
Week #4 is the final game of September of Wisconsin as the Badgers have a bye in Week #5. Week #4 is the first road game of the season and is against conference rival Iowa. We expect Iowa to struggle a bit this season as they lost some key personnel on offense and defense. They are led by Quarterback Nate Stanley who is had solid numbers last season and protects the football. He also has an NFL bound tight end as a top target. However, Iowa lost its starting running back and two All American defensive players. Overall we expect Wisconsin to handle Iowa in the first road game of the season and cover the number based on our expectations of where it will end up.
Check back for updates on the Badgers at the end of September.