Head Coach: Paul Chryst
2016 Record: 11-3 (7-2 Big Ten)
Over 10.5 wins (+130); Under 10.5 wins (-160)
Odds to win Big Ten Championship Game: +375
Odds to win 2017 Title: +4000
Odds c/o Bookmaker
The Wisconsin Badgers had a tough going last season in switching from starting QB Bart Houston to the inexperienced, but talented, Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook was shaky, but he showed enough potential for Badgers fans to feel good about the team’s offensive prospects entering the 2017 season. He threw 106 of 181 passes for completion after becoming the team’s starter in Week 8. But he also threw nine interceptions to just seven TDs.
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The fact the Badgers are putting some real talent behind him in the backfield should only help, though. Chris James transferred from Pitt, and he will be the third-down back most of the time. Redshirt sophomore Broderick Shaw closed last season strong, and he will receive plenty of touches as the team’s other featured back.
Tight end Troy Fumagalli led the team in receptions last year with 47, and he returns for his senior season. At WR, the Badgers return Jazz Peavy, who caught for 635 yards last year and five of the team’s passing TDs. Quintez Cephus should be a solid No. 2 option at WR, as well. The OL should be pretty strong, though it will be interesting to see what the Badgers do with Michael Detter, who closed last season playing a lot of left tackle.
Defensively, the Badgers continue to look for answers in going to its third defensive coordinator in three years. Jim Leonhard takes over the role after just one year of coaching experience. There is a hole to be filled at OLB after losing T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel, and the secondary is also an area of question.
The Badgers lost Sojourn Shelton and Leo Musso. Nick Nelson is Shelton’s likely replacement, and Natrell Jamerson should spell Musso. The defense will be strong at the ILB positions, though, with four talented players all capable of making a big difference. Among those fifth-year senior Jack Cichy could be in for a big year given his experience.
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The Badgers will return place kicker Rafael Gaglianone who suffered a season-ending leg injury last year. Anthony Lotti will have to improve his punting after averaging just 37.7 yards last year. Special teams could be a problem for the Badgers.
So, while Wisconsin continues to change its tune defensively, it is important to remember the defense was already very strong. The Badgers held teams to just 15.6 points per game last year, ranking No. 4 in the nation. Its rush defense allowed less than 100 yards per game. The Badgers rode a six-game win streak into the Big Ten title game before losing to Penn State, and then it proceeded to win its Cotton Bowl matchup against Western Michigan.
The Badgers are coming off a three-loss season in which all three of its losses came to teams that it probably should have fallen to—Ohio State, Michigan, and the Nittany Lions. Besting an 11-win season is a tall order, though. College football oddsmakers set the line at 10.5 wins, and this is a pretty tough one to bet on.
Matching last year seems in play given that the team has its true starting QB from Day 1, but given that the Badgers losses both came in Conference play, it is tough to project them as probable Big Ten champs. At +375, there is not a lot of value in such, either.
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