No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday September 5th, 8:00PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium Arlington, T.X.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WIS +10.5/ALA -10.5
Over/Under Total: 51.5
One of the most intriguing games of the opening week of college football will transpire inside “Jerry World”, aka AT&T Stadium, when the 20th ranked Wisconsin Badgers meet Nick Saban’s 3rd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday. After a disappointing exit in last year’s College Football Playoffs Semifinal against Ohio State, the Crimson Tide return a ton of talent that is expected to once again challenge for college football’s grandest prize. However not only will Alabama’s path to another College Football Playoffs appearance be brutal through the SEC West but they will also have to withstand a promising challenge from the Badgers this Saturday that has upset potential written all over it.
The Badgers are fresh off the heels of a solid 11-3 season that was capped off by a surprising 34-31 victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. However since last year’s season ending victory over Auburn, a lot of things have changed in Madison. Coach Gary Andersen departed to Oregon State which left the Wisconsin athletic department scrambling for a reputable replacement. At the end of the search, the job was awarded to former Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst who posted a couple of mediocre seasons for the Panthers. The question now is can Chryst keep the Badgers at the national prominence level?
The Badgers offense lost a lot of talent from their 2014 group including star running back Melvin Gordon. The 2015 Badger’s offense will feature 5 returning starters including junior quarterback Joel Stave. Stave did not have a great year in 2014 as the team relied heavily on the legs of Gordon who rushed for more than 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns. This year the offense will likely again rely heavily on the run game as former backup Corey Clement steps into the starting role. Clement shared carries with Gordon last year and despite Gordon’s incredible numbers, Clement was still able to gain 949 yards and 9 touchdowns on 147 touches. Therefore, the offense has a lot of hope that they will be able to again rely on the ground and pound rushing attack as Clement looks to become the workhorse.
Still, it will be interesting to see what type of production the Badgers offense gets from Stave and perhaps it will be even more interesting to see if Paul Chryst will continue to keep the football on the ground. Former coach Gary Andersen kept true to the ground game which often led to Wisconsin controlling the latter part of football games. Sometimes it can be difficult for coaches to stick to that rugged type of game plan but it is something Wisconsin has done very well now for several years. Therefore it will be interesting to see if Chryst changes the identity of this Badgers offense and how they utilize their resources going forward.
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The challenge for Wisconsin this Saturday will be establishing their infamous rushing attack against an extremely physical and talented Crimson Tide defense. Alabama’s defense actually regressed in 2014 to some degree if you can really call it a step back. Still, the Crimson Tide defense sported the 4th best unit in the country against the run holding opponents to just 102.4 yards per game. Despite returning just 11 starters in 2015, 7 of those starters will return to the defensive side of the football for Alabama this year. The majority of that talent will also be along the defensive front 7 which is bound to be ready for the task of stopping Wisconsin’s ground attack.
On offense, Alabama will have to break in some new talent at the skill positions including senior quarterback Jake Coker who will get his first crack at the starting position. Coker looked very solid in 2014 when taking relief snaps for Blake Sims and due to the way Nick Saban coaches his quarterbacks to “manage the game”, I highly doubt you are going to see any huge lapse in the quarterback department.
There may be more of a concern in the receiving corps where Alabama will look to turn to a rather young group of targets. Not having Amari Cooper as a vertical threat is bound to hurt the offense, but the Crimson Tide could easily counter the offset in the receiving corps with the rise of star running back Derrick Henry who is poised to have a sensational season in the Crimson Tide backfield. Look for Alabama to try to establish their running attack and open the playbook as the game progresses against the Badgers. Once that happens, Coker will silence any doubts of the quarterback worries that have come out of Tuscaloosa this fall.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Defense will be the story here as both offenses try to find their rhythm. Take the under 51.5! Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus at 1Vice Sportsbook!