Florida Atlantic Owls (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date and Time: Saturday, September 9 at 12pm ET
Where: Camp Randall Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FAU +31/UW -31
Over/Under Total: 58
New beginnings can be hard. Sure, everyone is excited at the start of something new but in the world of college football, the shine can come off a season right away. Teams like UNLV and Baylor must be feeling pretty low right now after embarrassing upsets in week one and Florida State is all of a sudden in must-win mode after just one loss, albeit a good loss. Things are very new for Florida Atlantic University this season as the mercurial Lane Kiffin takes the Owl helm. Things did not go so well in week one for Kiffin and now FAU travels to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. UW is not often a kind host and will look to extend a home winning against non-conference opponents to 39 games. The Kiffin tenure wont be judged simply by two games but it doesnt look like FAU is due for an automatic turnaround.
After a solid opener in which many questions were at least partly answered, the Badgers have been installed as big favorites for this week with most online betting sites listing Wisconsin at -31. That is a fitting line given UW just covered a 28 point spread and enters as the eighth ranked Sagarin team with FAU at 141st according to the computers. The Sagarin predictor has this game in favor of UW by a 48-7 margin. The Owls are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games as the visitor and have just two ATS wins in their last thirteen overall. Wisconsin is riding a 4-1 ATS streak in the last five September contests. This will be the first meeting between the schools.
Florida Atlantic opened the Kiffin era with a fittingly odd game in week one. Playing Navy usually makes for an odd week of triple option prep but the game itself featured three weather delays and did not end until just after 1am, in part to FAUs decision not to wrap things up while third delay was in effect. The dozens of fans that remained until the bitter end saw the Owls on the wrong side of a 42-19 decision and many of FAUs problems were self-inflicted. The offensive consistency was missing but the Owls showed a bit of flash with a few big plays in the passing game. Daniel Parr had some nice stretches where he showed the ability to accurately deliver the ball but overall, FAU was way behind in the time-of-possession battle and ran less total plays than Navy had rushing attempts. It would be a benefit to add some consistent production to the big play potential and they will need to rush for more than 40 yards as they did against the Midshipmen. DeAndre McNeal and Willie Wright look like they can stress a defense on the outside and DeAndre Johnson of LastChanceU fame should see more playing time to provide that dual threat option that is lacking with the pocket passing Parr.
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Wisconsin looked very average in the first quarter and half against Utah State. Wisconsin was plagued with bad field position, dropped passes and an ineffective running game to start. Things got turned around after a short touchdown drive followed by an interception that led to a game tying field goal going into half. UW snapped off a 40 yard run on the first play of the second half and never looked back on the way to a 59-10 win. Alex Hornibrook looked significantly better than he did last season, especially with his arm strength, and found three different receivers for touchdowns. Freshman Jonathan Taylor led UW with 87 rushing yards on just nine carries with Bradrick Shaw also over 80 yards including a touchdown. Two fullbacks recorded scoring plunges to make Wisconsin look like a team that knows exactly who they are and how to leverage that against the opponent.
Lane Kiffin wasnt too hard on his defense after giving up 416 rushing yards to Navy but the Owls will certainly have to do better in Madison to avoid a similar fate. Wisconsin looked a little tentative in the first half with the rush before exploding but the more troubling thing for FAU was that the Badger passing game looked good. That passing game is still pretty simple but Wisconsin is painfully difficult to defend when they can both pass and run. UW wound up with 244 passing yards and 234 rushing yards against the Aggies and it will be a tough for FAU to overload the box with a credible passing threat waiting for them show one-on-one coverages. Navy is allergic to passing so it becomes an even more difficult transition to face a two-dimensional offense.
Another issue for FAU will be a Wisconsin defense that looked very much like the top-10 versions from the last three seasons. There is no T.J. Watt and Jack Cichy is gone for the season but there were red shirts waiting for every Utah State ball carrier last week. Had UW not gifted the Aggies a short field after a botched snap, the Wisconsin defense would likely have given up just three points. T.J. Edwards is a force at linebacker for Wisconsin but it appears that UW is greater than the sum of its parts with experience at every point of the defensive depth chart. FAU was able to rack up nearly 300 passing yards last week so that Badger secondary may be asked to do a bit more than last week but they appeared up to the task against a Utah State scheme that threw a lot of looks at them. About 40 of the 219 passing yards allowed by Wisconsin came on a play where a Badger defender tipped the ball to the intended receiver.
There are few teams that come into Madison and do well, especially the first time around. I said last week that I didnt think Wisconsin was 30 points better than anyone in the NCAA but I was proven wrong to a large extent. Im not sure how many times the Badgers have scored 59 points before but I dont think many featured a scoreless first quarter. Wisconsin is still not in the conversation with a team like Alabama but their offensive efficiency behind a proficient-looking Hornibrook makes them a contender to win the Big Ten. If you go back and review the Rose Bowl seasons for Wisconsin, you see many of the same things we saw last Friday. A diverse offense that churns out yards despite a lack of playmakers and a defense that is so team-centric that you cant spot the weaknesses. FAU has some flash and will probably be better off for having Lane Kiffin than not but I feel the Owls are going to find out why no one really likes travelling to Camp Randall. I understand the urge to take any team at +30 regardless of opponent but I think the Badgers have another game like last week. That will be too much for the Owls and this remains Wisconsins game to lose against the spread. They will get 45 on the board with similar offensive performance and that makes FAU find a way to two touchdowns for a cover. I dont think they get with Wisconsin moving to 2-0 after a 49-12 win.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Wisconsin
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