New Mexico Lobos vs. Wisconsin Badgers Week 2 Pick
New Mexico Lobos (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date and Time: Saturday, Sep. 8 at 11am ET
Where: Camp Randall
TV: Big Ten
By: Ted Walker, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NM +35/WISC -35
Over/Under Total: 61
Cupcakes are on the menu again this week for many college football teams. Maybe you prefer the term cream puffs but regardless of what you call those sugary, sweet non-conference opponents, they are there to help the big boys get fat. New Mexico travels to Mad-town to take on the Wisconsin Badgers this Saturday with the Lobos facing one of the more lopsided lines of the week. New Mexico doesn’t figure to pose much of an upset threat but that doesn’t automatically mean they aren’t capable of getting a win against the spread.
Wisconsin cruised to what looked like an easy 34-3 win against Western Kentucky last week and while the Badgers were never really tested, they didn’t exactly play a solid game overall. There were plenty of mistakes, including a Jonathan Taylor fumble. He did make up for that in large part with 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns but ball security is something that has been an issue for him in the past. Alex Hornibrook threw for 257 yards and two scores but also missed wide open receivers on at least three occasions. Wisconsin should have put up another two touchdowns but they were not sharp and had mostly themselves to blame for the unevenness. The Badgers defense did meet expectations by holding WKU to just 5-of-16 on third down and allowed just the one field goal on four red zone trips by the Hilltoppers. Going back to 2017, Wisconsin is allowing a 28% TD rate to opponents once they reach the Badgers 20-yard line.
New Mexico cannot throw stones at those who schedule lesser opponents as the Lobos took on Incarnate Word in the opener. The UIW Cardinal program has only been around since 2009 and didn’t even hit the FCS until 2013. That said, they do have plenty of Texas talent and New Mexico was challenged to slow the Cards and gave up 30 points. Thankfully, the Lobos managed 62 of their own and got a walk-through win despite failing to cover the spread. QB Tevaka Tuioti threw for 327 yards and four scores on just thirteen completions. Seven of his passes went for 30 yards or more. New Mexico will need to maintain that big play ability this weekend as it does not bode well that they allowed 7.2 yards per rush to UIW.
We all know what the Badgers are going to do. They are going to run first, second and probably third but also look to hit those big play action opportunities. For his inconsistency on Saturday, Hornibrook did make some really nice throws and spread the ball around with seven different Badgers catching a pass. A.J. Taylor led the way with a 5-85 line and Jake Ferguson snagged four balls from the TE spot. The loss of Troy Fumagalli was thought to pose potential issues for the UW offense but the 6’5” Ferguson looks ready to be next in a line of NFL tight ends. That Wisconsin offensive line was good overall and great on a few plays. There were several sustained blocks that pushed WKU defenders into the secondary and the line cleared out an entire half of the field on a screen pass to Garrett Groshek that went for a score. Alongside the 244 rushing yards allowed by New Mexico last week, the Lobos also gave up 322 passing yards. Wisconsin may not struggle to move the ball at all on Saturday.
If you can look the other way from the defense getting gouged, the New Mexico offense was a legit bright spot for a team that went 3-9 last year. Tuioti added 54 rushing yards and a score on eleven keeps last week and the Lobos chances clearly hinge on him having another big day. Wisconsin is very familiar with mobile QBs after seeing the likes of J.T. Barrett for years but a dual threat always puts a defense in a bad spot. The young Badger secondary may need to allow some underneath throws to stay safe as Patrick Reed and Elijah Lilly both scored on 50+ yard receptions last week. Q’ Dennard is day-to-day with a hip injury that was sustained after grabbing a 40-yard pass. Dennard averaged 25.8 yards per catch as a sophomore and three potential field stretching receivers will be tough for completely eliminate. Tyrone Owens isn’t a big back but he has rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and 11 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He will have to be ready to get some tough yards against a Wisconsin run defense that allowed just 3.6 yards per carry to Western Kentucky.
At first thought, New Mexico seems like a step up for Wisconsin but that may not be the case as the Sagarin ratings have WKU at 115th while the Lobos sit at 123rd. Some of that ranking is due to the huge disparity in Week 1 opponents but those ratings and the sportsbooks essentially have Wisconsin playing a very similar team this week. The problem with that is the Badgers have only covered in one of the last six when they were favored by 30+ points. Furthermore, they are just 5-5 ATS in the last ten when giving 17 or more. Wisconsin, mostly for their own inconsistency, often plays down to their opponent just enough to not cover those big spreads. They have won eleven straight at home and New Mexico has dropped four straight as the visitor so don’t worry about a moneyline jackpot here but the Lobos are that statistically supported best bet.
Wisconsin should have put more points on the board last week but they could have allowed about ten more as well so the result may have been same differential. New Mexico appears to have the playmakers to attack the Badgers where they are weakest on defense and even the best defenses can be creased by the vertical passing game. Wisconsin will see their normal success while grinding down the New Mexico front but that takes time and the Badgers will come in around that 37-42 point range. The Lobos can get 10 of their own and that should be enough.
Ted’s Pick: New Mexico +35
The Redskins travel to the desert to take on the Cardinals to open the 2018 season. Both clubs missed the NFL playoffs last season and are entering transition periods this year. Which team will start their turnaround in week 1?