Wisconsin Badgers (2-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. BYU Cougars (1-2 SU, 0-3 ATS)
NCAA Week 3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 16 at 3:30pm ET
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UW -17/BYU +17
Over/Under Total: 41
It feels like we are on pretty good footing already in the 2017 NCAA Football season. Most of the teams that were thought to contend have showed they are, in fact, legit contenders and those that have taken an early L have done so at the hands of a top-notch opponent. We seem to heading toward another year with Alabama in the playoff draw but there is a large group that is fighting for the other three spots at the moment and one of those teams is the Wisconsin Badgers. The 2-0 Badgers head west to take on BYU this weekend with the Cougars struggling a bit at 1-2 and fresh off a Holy War loss to Utah. Wisconsin enters as the 12th ranked squad in the AP poll and takes a step up in competition as they face they face BYU along with leaving Madison for the first time this season. The Badgers have started slow in both of their previous games and will look to put in a more complete effort this weekend.
There is some disagreement in the point spread this week and that is based on the injury status of BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum. The Cougar signal caller was hurt on the last play of the game against the Utes and not much has been offered regarding his status but the thought is that he is dealing with a high ankle sprain. He could miss several weeks if that is the case but nothing firm has been reported about his status for Saturday. The line opened with Wisconsin as a two touchdown favorite but then moved to -13 after early action. The Mangum news has pushed the line to BYU +17 but there are betting markets that have the +13 still listed. Wisconsin enters on a 6-0 ATS streak as the visitor with BYU just 1-4 against the spread in their last five against an opponent with a winning record.
This is the second half of a home-and-home that originated in 2013. UW got the better of that meeting by a 27-17 score but there is virtually zero bearing from that game this Saturday. We talked about BYUs injury woes but Wisconsin is a little beat up as well. Starting running back Bradrick Shaw missed last week with a leg injury and is questionable this week. The offensive line with likely be without Beau Benzchawel and the defensive line is down standout Chikwe Obasih. The Badgers have always been a team able to absorb injuries but these early season setbacks are testing depth at some spots that had question marks entering the season.
BYU has struggled out of the gate and does not have a lot of positive items to report through three games. Their 20-6 opening win against Portland State fell quite a bit short of the 37 points they were favored by and a 27-0 throttling at the hands of LSU followed. The Cougars managed just 97 total yards against LSU, including -5 rushing yards while allowing 296 rushing yards to the Tigers. They trailed 16-0 in the third quarter before getting on the board against Utah and again fell short of 70 rushing yards. They allowed 314 passing yards to the Utes so there is really nothing the Cougars could be expected to build on heading into their fourth game. They are outside the top-100 in most relevant offensive statistics and have managed just 11 points per game. They face a Badger defense that is allowing 12 points per contest so dont look for an immediate turnaround. Beau Hoge will get the start if Mangum cant go and while some BYU fans like the thought of the more moblie Hoge under center, he would be making his first start after seeing action in just three previous games his freshman season.
Wisconsin has put forth two quality efforts in beating Utah State and Florida Atlantic but they have not looked polished at times. Turnovers, dropped passes and penalties have scuttled drives in each of the first two weeks and that is not the norm for this team. Jonathan Taylor has emerged as a superstar back despite his freshman status. He racked up 223 rushing yards and three scores against the Owls and you know he is special when he is being mentioned on the same lists as Ron Dayne. Alex Hornibrook found TE Troy Fumagalli for the duos second touchdown in as many weeks and Hornibrooks steady play has led Wisconsin to 521 yards per game and 45 points per game thus far. Jazz Peavy has been held in check through two weeks which makes the Badgers performance all teh more impressive as Peavy was scheduled to be a major part of things as he was last year. Wisconsin is much more like LSU than any other of BYU opponents so look for the Badgers to enjoy some of the same running success the TIgers saw.
BYU is suffering from a serious lack of playmaking ability. Wisconsin has held down their opponents through two weeks but both games had a few big plays go against the Badger defense. Mangum has hit on only 54% of his passes so far and no Cougar receiver is averaging 50 yards per game so it is unlikely to think that BYU is going to have anything more than that one or two big plays this game. I think it is safe to assume Wisconsin will run the ball well again and then use the play-action pass to burn the linebacker level. Three of Hornibrooks four touchdowns have come to his tight ends and BYU will be challenged to lock them up in the pass game. The Cougars defense is decidedly the better unit over their offense at this point but that D is going to wear down if the offense isnt moving the ball and giving them a rest. Paul Chryst loathes the fact that Wisconsin has missed some of those little assignments through two games and the word is that attention to detail has been high on the list. That likely means a very buttoned-down Wisconsin unit this week and one that probably gets more out of this game. That isnt great news for BYU and puts them on the wrong side of a 20+ point loss. I think you absolutely have to take Wisconsin if you can still find them at -13 but even the -17 seems pretty safe.
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