Utah State Aggies(0-0SU,0-0ATS) vs.Wisconsin Badgers(0-0SU,0-0ATS)
College Football Week1
Date/Time:Friday, September 1 at 9pm ET />
Where: Camp Randall
Point Spread:Utah St. +27.5/UW -27.5
We have had a few college football games to get the party started but this week starts the NCAA Football season in earnest. The early portions of each season are typically filled with some lopsided contests on paper but sometimes that does lead to epic upsets. Appalachian State tipping Michigan in Ann Arbor remains one of biggest modern day upsets and the Utah State Aggies will be looking for something similar this Friday when they head to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. An Aggie win wouldnt quite rise to that App. St. level but the Badgers are the 10th ranked preseason team so Utah State is definitely playing the role of David in this matchup. Camp Randall is a bear of a place to win as the visitor and the night game atmosphere there rivals any NCAA venue around. They dont play the game on paper for a reason but this one is scheduled to be a leisurely stroll for the home team.
Wisconsin did not get the easy walk they were looking for in 2012 when Utah State came into town. A Gary Andersen led Aggie squad gave the Badgers all they could handle in the opener with UW squeezing out a 16-14 win. That gutsy performance was actually part of reason why Andersen was able to get the Wisconsin head coaching gig just a season later after the departure of Bret Bielema. Matt Wells has been the Aggie head man ever since and Im sure the story lines would have been limitless if Andersen was still at the Badger helm for this one. His tenure lasted just less than two seasons in Madison before Paul Chryst was brought back to Wisconsin from Pitt.
Early season point spreads can be a little crazy and this one has seen a lot of motion with Wisconsin opening up as 33.5 point favorites. That line has cooled to see UW at -27.5 during the week of the game and the over/under total has moved to 52 after opening somewhere around 49. Good for you if you snagged Utah State at +30 or more. You had to bet them early and you should be rewarded for tying up your money that long as I do not think the Badgers are 30+ points better than any FBS team right now. Wisconsin is 4-1 against the spread in their last five September contests and has 11 ATS wins in their last 16 games overall but they will be hard pressed to improve on those marks. Utah State has the other end of the trend with a current 0-4 ATS streak in their last four as the visitor and just three ATS wins in their last seventeen overall. That 27.5 points is probably very close to a number that could happen in so many way but isnt that what we expect from the online sportsbooks?
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The Matt Wells era started so well with nineteen wins in his first two seasons and two bowl victories. A third bowl came after a 6-6 campaign in 2015 but the bottom mostly fell out last year with the Aggies slipping to 3-9 overall and just 1-7 in the Mountain West. There were many games in which Utah State let second half leads slip away so there is some thought that a turnaround can happen right away but there are just eight returning starters from last year, leaving a lot of holes to be plugged. Both the offensive and defensive lines will see new starters and that is not promising for this week given the strength that normally resides in the Badger trenches. David Yost was brought on to be the new offensive coordinator and his promise to open up the passing game has expectations high for senior quarterback Kent Meyers. Meyers has improved in every season and poses a running threat as well as having the arm talent. He threw for ten touchdowns last season and added six on the ground so Wisconsin will have to factor for him at the linebacker level all night. The Aggies might have one of the deepest wide receiver pools in all of football. Ronquavion Tarver is a big target at 63 and 215 pounds but Wells has mentioned openly that the WR depth is something he will look to use against defenses instead of zeroing in on just one playmaker. Wisconsin lost T.J. Watt to the NFL and Jack Cichy to a torn ACL. The Badger defense is already transitioning under new DC Jim Leonhard and perhaps the Aggies can take advantage of some early season inconsistencies.
Last year was a pleasant surprise for Wisconsin. They went 10-2 in the regular season and were literally a few plays away from getting the wins against Michigan and Ohio State that would have put them in the Playoffs. A Cotton Bowl win was a nice consolation and there are serious expectations this year as this was supposed to be the season UW was scheduled to make the big push. Fourteen starters return after the loss of Cichy and the standard model of running the ball while playing tough defense is again the plan in Madison. Alex Hornibrook split reps with Bart Houston throughout the season last year but the job is all his this time around and there are some very positive reports from both spring and summer camp. Much of that news talks up his emotional and mental maturity but he will simply need to make more plays than he did last season if Wisconsin is going to cash in their goals of winning the Big Ten and maybe more. There have been changes on the O-Line and at running back but do not expect the Badgers to look any different than how they always look. The running game could go wild Friday night as Utah State is not settled up front in their 3-4 scheme. It will be lights out for the Aggies if a big back like Bradrick Shaw is consistently getting to the second level.
There is a little concern with Badger fans that a lack of playmakers will submarine a promising overall roster. WR Jazz Peavy will likely miss the game with a leg injury so the cupboard is even barer for the opener. Troy Fumagalli might be the best option for the Wisconsin passing game, that is if Paul Chryst elects to pass at all. Utah State lost its three top tacklers from 2016 and that defense finished almost dead last in takeaways with just ten turnovers created all year. The plan for the Aggie offense is to go up-tempo and feature efficient gains in the pass game. They also ran for over 2,000 yards as a team so they can be expected to sprinkle that in if Wisconsin puts more DBs on the field but all of the Aggie production will have to come against a UW defense that has been in the top-10 for the last three years. It hasnt mattered if Dave Aranda or Justin Wilcox has been the coordinator and it really hasnt mattered who was in our out of the lineup. The Badgers are a top-tier defense and that shouldnt automatically change as they return a lot of depth from last season.
I think this one will be easier for the Badgers than the 2012 edition was but I really cant see them putting up enough points to cover a near four touchdown spread. Wisconsin has not been a team that would run up the score on the little guys and they never do it at home. There will be some bumps for both teams as they roll out new faces in new places but that should just about even up as the talent gap likely stays the same as if both returned everyone from last season. Wisconsin is going to run and Utah State is going to struggle to stop them. That almost always leads to a fast clock and often these non-conference games go to half with the Badgers up 21-7 or something like that. Wisconsin tends to squeeze harder in the second half but a play or two in the passing game always slips through as the opposition turns pass-heavy and the final score settles in the 35-10 or 40-17 range. The outcome will never really be in doubt but I think the Aggies and the points are the appropriate play, especially in week one.
EvergreensPick to Cover the Point Spread:Utah State
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