Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Northern Illinois Huskies (0-0) v. Wisconsin Badgers (0-0), 7pm ET, September 5, 2009, Camp Randall, Big Ten Network (Regional)
by Evergreen of

Point Spread: NIU +16.5/Wisc -16.5

Over/Under: 51

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It was 44 degrees when I woke up this morning and the kids are back to school, so it must be time for the NCAA football season to kick off. The Wisconsin Badgers open up their non-conference schedule this Saturday night by hosting the Northern Illinois Huskies.

2008 was rocky for the Badgers as early season success was erased by poor performances in conference and Wisconsin finished the season 7-6, losing 42-13 to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Huskies surpassed the expectations under Coach Jerry Kill last year, managing a 6-6 mark after a two win season in 2007 and earning an Independence Bowl bid, although they lost to Louisiana Tech to finish the year at 6-7.

The bookies opened with the Badgers as 16.5 point favorites and the over/under total at 50.5 or 51. The last meeting between these teams was a walk for Wisconsin as they took out the Huskies 44-3 in 2007.

NIU will bring the more experienced group to Saturdays game, having 44 players on the 2009 roster that logged at least one start last year. The Badgers may have a more talented overall roster, but the quarterback situation is cloudy and several youngsters will be counted on to take the place of the departing upperclassmen that have led the team over the past seasons.

One key for the Huskies this week will be the continued solid play of quarterback
Chandler Harnish. Harnish led NIU in passing yards and rushing yards in
2008, accounting for 12 total touchdowns. He will need Nathan Parker, Landon
Cox, or Willie Clark to step up and become a reliable target to keep the
defense from crashing the line and limiting the run game. Meco Brown and
Chad Spann return nearly 1,000 rushing yards and 10 TDs from last year
and safety David Bryant has drawn the attention of NFL scouts.

Wisconsin will need to get the most out of the quarterback pot as well, but as of early in the week, the depth chart is still unsettled. Dustin Sherer is back after leading the Badgers in passing last year, but Bret Bielema has both Scott Tolzien and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips as potential starters and has stipulated that both may see significant time. The running game is always the strong suit for UW and this year will be no different with an O-line averaging 315 pounds and two strong backs returning. John Clay and Zach Brown will split time, both averaged over 5.5 yards per carry in 2008, combining for almost 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. David Gilreath is an all around threat at the wide receiver position and tight end Garrett Graham will provide matchup issues for the Huskies.

Neither team has any significant injuries listed on the report, with Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi cleared to start this weekend. Senior safeties Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter remain suspended for the Badgers, although the details of the suspensions are undisclosed.

Looking at the betting trends, Northern Illinois scuffled with the line late last year, going 1-5 against the spread in the final half of their schedule, but are good on the road, sporting a 6-2 ATS mark as visitors most recently. The Badgers have handled their non-conference opponents over the last few years, going 13-5 against the spread against outside of the Big Ten and are 6-1 ATS in the last seven games in which they were the favorites.

Evergreens Pick: It shouldnt make much difference who starts at QB for the Badgers as hell likely be handing off a lot. The UW line should be able to control the pace and keep the suspect defense off the field. The 6pm local start should give the Wisconsin fans plenty of time to get fired up for the opener but bettors amongst the crowd will all go home with tears in their eyes as NIU gets the money staying just under the number for a cover!.