No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers (0-0) at UNLV Running Rebels (0-0), Week 1 College Football, Saturday, September 4, 2010 11pm ET, Sam Boyd Stadium Las Vegas, NV, TV: Versus
by Evergreen of Predictem.com
Betting Line: Wiscy -20.5/Nevada Las Vegas +20.5
Over/Under Total: 57.5
Kids across America are cursing this time of year as they head back to school, but NCAA Football fans are rejoicing as they have only days left before the kickoff of the 2010 season. In one of the later games on the Saturday schedule, the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Sin City to take on the Running Rebels of UNLV. The Badgers are a sneaky pick to possibly win the Big Ten Conference this year and will look to get off to a strong start against a Rebel that has struggled the past few years and also ruin the debut of UNLV head coach, Bobby Hauck. The game will kick at 11pm ET from Sam Boyd Stadium and can be seen on Versus.
The big boards in Vegas opened with the Badgers as 14 point favorites but that line moved fast with most online bookies now showing Wisconsin as 20.5 point favs. UNLV is a massive +1000 on the money line with UW in the -1250 to -1500 range and the over/under total for the game is at 57.5 or 58.
Wisconsin is coming into the season with some lofty expectations after a 20-14 bowl win against Miami and enters the week as the 12th ranked team in the country. The Badgers finished 2009 with a 10-3 record and were among the best in the NCAA on offense where they were 15th in rushing yards per game and 25th in points for, averaging 31.8 per contest.
The defense appears as the weaker unit heading into 2010 but the 2009 unit did allow succeed against the run, allowing only 88 yards to opposing rushers, good for 5th in the nation.
Scott Tolzien enters his second year as the starting quarterback after a solid 2009 season that saw him complete 64% of his passes with 16 touchdowns. The Badgers have always been about the run and John Clay is back and the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is as healthy as hes ever been after offseason ankle surgery. Clay rushed for 1,517 yards and 18 scores last year and must be licking his chops at the thought of facing a less than stout UNLV run defense. Nick Toon can stretch the field at the wideout spot and look for Tolzien to use play action to burn the secondary once they over commit to stopping the run.
UNLV has its work cut out if they want to improve on the 5-7 mark from 2009 and they must start with a better effort on defense as The Rebels finished 2009 ranked 100th or worse in rush yards allowed, total yards allowed and points against. Coach Haucks first test will be a strong one as the Badgers strengths appear to line up perfectly with UNLVs weak spots. The offense has been average across the board, which hasnt been enough to cover for the lackluster D.
Mike Clausen has won the job at quarterback for the Rebs and brings a dual threat to the field as he rushed for 288 yards and 7 scores while throwing for 463 yards in limited time last year. Channing Trotter will start on Saturday with C.J. Cox also seeing carries and the duo will have to mount some sort of threat against a strong front seven. Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson are solid options for Clausen with the pair accounting for 101 receptions and 1155 yards in 2009.
This will be the 7th meeting since 1996 between these schools in what has become a semi-regular rivalry. Look for a lot of Badger fans in the seats as they travel very and may actually outnumber the UNLV supporters. The 2007 meeting that resulted in a 20-13 Wisconsin win set the all-time attendance mark at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Wisconsin has handled its non-conference schedule well with a 15-7 mark against the spread in the last 22 such games and UNLV will look to reverse the trend that has them 1-4 ATS at home and 2-8 ATS in the last 10 overall. The current USA Today Sagarin ratings have Wisconsin at 29th with UNLV at 100th. The under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in this series.
Wisconsins injury report includes back-up QB Curt Phillips who is expected to miss the game with a knee injury and LB Mike Taylor who also looks to be a scratch with a knee. UNLV lists Mike Clausen as questionable with an ankle, but he appears to be on track to start.
Evergreens Pick to Beat the Spread: Given the Badgers want to run and the Rebs potential inability to stop it, its hard to think that Wisconsin will have any trouble in this game. UNLV may spend so much effort in trying to stop the 255lb Clay that they get torched through the air as well. The Badger D is the less effective unit and they have struggled with mobile QBs but UNLV will likely be pass happy as they fall behind, making them a bit too one dimensional to pose a serious threat. Bucky rolls 38-13, hitting the under.