Massachusetts Minutemen(0-0SU,0-0ATS) vs.Wisconsin Badgers(0-0SU,0-0ATS)
College Football Week1
Date and Time:Saturday, August 31, 12pm ET
Where:Camp Randall Stadium
TV:Big Ten Network
byEvergreen,Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:UMass +44.5/UW -44.5
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End of August already?Youre darn right its the end of August.If youre like me, it has seemed like forever since the college kids laced em up and took the field but we dont have to wait much longer.The University of Massachusetts Minutemen say that five times fast travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in a Week 1 tilt that has some more intrigue than you normal non-conference openers.UMass gets to see the Jump Around first hand and we all get to see what new Head Coach Gary Andersen has installed as the Badgers transition out of the Bret Bielema era.Wisconsin is a 44.5 point favorite against this Minutemen squad that is entering just their second year of FBS play.
The first year of FBS transition wasnt so kind to UMass and Head Coach Charley Molnar as a lone win against Akron was all they could muster in a 1-11 campaign.Molnar does have some coaching pedigree after serving as Brian Kellys OC at Notre Dame but the UMass offense couldnt sustain much of anything last year and failed to average 300 total yards per game while only scoring 12.7 points per contest.It shouldnt be a surprise that the Minutemen were at their worst against major conference opponents in 2012 as they fell to Michigan and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 112-20.Hope always springs eternal I guess and UMass certainly has a chance to make that 44.5 point buffer pay, especially if Wisconsin comes out of gates struggling as they did last year.
The Badgers are again facing a massive overhaul on the coaching staff and they will have to handle it better this year as expectations are high after a third consecutive Rose Bowl defeat.Former Head Coach Bret Bielema pointed to 2013 as the year during the 2011 and 2012 seasons so Andersen has a pretty full cupboard with a veteran laden team at his disposal.It will be interesting to see how the former Utah State coach will implement his 3-4 defense, cover for the loss of Montee Ball and sort out the depth chart at quarterback.
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Entering the week, Curt Phillips, Joel Stave and transfer Tanner McEvoy are all in the mix for the starting QB nod with each possessing key attributes that Andersen likes.Phillips has the moxi, Stave has the arm and McEvoy has the dual-threat capability to fully implement the offense but no matter who comes out as the starter for this game, don t expect to see much of anything that you havent already seen from previous Wisconsin teams.James White and Melvin Gordon should be able to pick up the slack from Balls exit to the NFL with the duo combining for over 1,400 yards and 12 scores while Ball was the starter.The Badgers were about as bad as they have been in recent memory through the air as they averaged just 156 passing yards per game UMass managed 186 but there are some talented pieces to throw to in Jared Abbrederis and a group of tight ends, so improvement should be seen with some QB continuity.
UMass will rely heavily on QB Mike Wegzyn and the sophomore must improve on his 52% completion rate and get the ball in the endzone more than the six times he did in 2012.The best matchup option for the Minutemen comes at TE as Rob Branchflower is a target that can stretch the secondary and open up the underneath for WRs Tajae Sharpe (good last name for a receiver) and Michigan transfer Ricardo Miller.The Badgers appear to be very strong in the front seven but have issues in the secondary with only one returning starter and a converted running back scheduled to see time at safety.UMass running back Jordan Broadnax is currently questionable for the game which may force the Minutemen to the air even more and maybe they can catch an inexperienced Badger secondary a few times.
From a betting perspective, UMass probably wasnt as bad as the 1-11 mark they put up as they managed a 4-8 mark against the spread but all those wins came against MAC competition.The Minutemen enter the game on an 0-5 ATS mark out of conference.The Badgers actually do that mark on better, or worse, as they are looking for their first ATS win in their last six games outside the Big Ten.The tough part here is not knowing how will coach Andersen handle the scoring pace if the game is getting out of hand.There isnt a track record of running or not running up the score on weaker competition so it remains a key question in the decision to lay the points or not.For the record, I havent heard anyone talking about UW not winning this game for any reason, so I think it really comes down to how many points the Badgers can, or want, to score against what is essentially an FCS opponent.
If you think that UMass can find a way to put up 13-17 points, I would take the Minutemen as I do not see Wisconsin rolling this one into the sixties.It should be noted, however, that UMass gave up 40.2 points per game last year and over 450 yards on average so the possibility certainly exists that they get scored on in a big way even if Bucky is just running the ball to milk the clock, see the 2012 B1G Championship Game highlights.UW finished the year inside the top-25 in all defensive yardage allowed categories and held opponents to less than 20 points per game, so it would be a stunner if UMass keeps this close for too long.Ultimately, Gary Andersen seems like a pretty nice guy so I see him keeping this one just under half a hundred as the Badgers win big but do not cover with a 49-7 result.
EvergreensPick to Cover the Point Spread:UMASS
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