Utah State Aggies (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS)
NCAA Football Week 3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 15th, 8pm EST
Where: Camp Randall Stadium/Madison, WI
TV: Big Ten Network
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Utah St. +14/WIS -14
Over/Under Total: 51
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The first few weeks of NCAA Football action is usually full of little schools taking a beating by big BCS brothers in exchange for a check but 2012 has seen some stunning performances from the lesser known teams and the upset alert is on again as the Utah State Aggies travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The game is featured on the Big Ten Network and kicks at 8pm ET.
Utah State is coming off a 27-20 overtime upset of Utah and now sets sights on the seemingly larger task of winning in Camp Randall against a Wisconsin team that is licking the wounds from a 10-7 defeat at Oregon State. The Badgers are looking to rebound from two sub-par performances and are likely hurting a bit more after it was made apparent that officials incorrectly overturned a call that gave Bucky the ball on an onside kick attempt near the end of the OSU game. They were denied a chance to pull one out of the fire but the fact remains that there are major issues with Wisconsins offense, especially along the line, and Brett Bielema has already replaced O-Line coach Mike Markuson as a result. The Aggies are escaping the world of Utah football as both their wins are at home against teams from the state. They too have some issues as the Utah win was nearly spoiled by turnovers and penalties.
Vegas opened this game with the Badgers as 13.5 point favorites with the online betting sites most commonly listing the line at 14. Utah State is on the money line around +425 with Wisconsin at -550 and the over/under total for the game is set at 51. The Aggies are 4-1 against the spread in their last five against non-conference opponents but are only 1-4 ATS in their last five on the road. The Badgers have 12 ATS wins in the last 16 games in Madison but are on a current skid that has seen them drop the last four games against the spread.
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Fourteen seems a fair number, maybe even low, if Wisconsin would have shown anything near their 2011 form but their struggles on both sides of the ball make this a tempting opportunity to take the points. Camp Randall remains one of the toughest places to play but Utah State has seen recent success in tough road contests as they nearly upset Auburn last year before losing by four late and a 2010 trip to Oklahoma saw another ATS win as the Aggies were downed by only seven.
Sophomore QB Chuckie Keeton leads the Aggies and was just named WAC Player of the Week. He leads a balanced offense that has averaged over 220 yards both on the ground and though the air while averaging 30 points per game. Keeton has converted on 75% of his passes and only has one interception against four touchdowns while presenting a scrambling threat. Keeton has a pair of senior receivers to look to with Matt Austin and Chuck Jacobs providing solid targets and TE Kellen Bartlett has been a nice outlet, grabbing ten balls in two games. Kerwynn Williams and Joe Hall will have to get some production on the ground as the Badgers have excelled at stopping the run, allowing less than 60 yards per game.
It has always been all about the offensive line for Wisconsin and their early stumbles are a direct result of poor play and apparently sub-standard communication with the coaching staff. The Markuson firing highlights how important an immediate O-line turnaround is to this team and better play both in the run game and pass protection is needed. Danny OBrien has been pretty solid overall but had some shaky throws last week under pressure and it is nearly impossible to figure out how Montee Ball has not found any success even with the line struggles. Wisconsin can live with throwing for the 195 yards they are averaging but a 105 yard average on the ground is not going to get it done and that should be the main focus in this weeks preparation. Jared Abbrederis left the Oregon State game after a hard hit and is suffering from concussion-like symptoms as of Tuesday, so check his status as the week progresses as he has been the best option for OBrien.
I guess the positive for the Badgers going into the week is that the struggles have highlighted their weaknesses and they have the players at those positions to correct them. They can also lean on the experience gained from two tough games but I think Coach Bielema will be looking for an easier time of it this weekend. A letdown is somewhat predictable for Utah State after an emotional win last week and they likely need to come out on top of their game and not let Wisconsin fans get feeling too good early. Camp Randall has been impossible for opponents at night - just ask Ohio State and Nebraska - and that place will go nuclear if the Badgers can come out and put some points up right away. For all the defensive miscues against Northern Iowa, the Wisconsin defense did hold Oregon State to just ten points and look to be employing a bend but dont break formula.
Somewhat reluctantly, I am taking the Aggies and the points here. Wisconsin scares me as I think they are too talented to play this bad for much longer and even a small improvement from the offensive line is going to translate into more points and a tougher cover. Utah State needs to keep up its offensive consistency and Keeton will need to throw to succeed as the Badger linebackers are giving up nothing on the ground. Order is slightly restored in Madison as Wisconsin wins this one comfortably enough but Utah State scores late to make the score 29-17.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Utah State
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