#10 Wisconsin at BYU
Time: 2:30 PM (CT), Saturday
Spread: WIS -17
Odds c/o 5dimes
Independent BYU has had a tough start to its 2017 season: It began with a victory over lowly Portland State but since has dropped two-straight with losses to then-No. 13 LSU and a 19-13 loss to the Utah Utes last week to fall to 1-2. BYU will host No. 10 Wisconsin this week as 17-point underdogs, and perhaps the only caveat in playing its second AP ranked team in three weeks is that the remainder of the 2017 schedule holds no other such challenges.
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The over/under for this game is set relatively low at just 41 points, so this could be more of a defensive oriented game for those who prefer that brand of college football. The game is due to air at 2:30 (Central), Saturday on ABC.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has had a good—if not predictable—start to its season. The Badgers won 59-10 in Week 1 over Utah State and defeated Florida Atlantic 31-14 in Week 2. BYU will not be a major challenge for the Badgers, but next week things get much tougher when it travels to face Northwestern, before facing Nebraska on the road in Week 5. As typical in these cases, getting the easy, favored victories remains of paramount importance to the Badgers as its Big Ten schedule is annually rigorous.
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Thus far through two games, Alex Hornibrook has been very good in the pocket for the Badgers. He has thrown 31 of 51 for completion (60.8 percent) while amassing 445 yards and four TDs. He has thrown one pick on the year, but he also has been getting excellent production from his receiving core, Troy Fumagalli in particular. Fumagalli already has 13 catches on the season, looking to build on last year’s 47 receptions and 580 yards.
Fumagalli is now a senior. He and Hornibrook are in their second season together; both seem to have found a good bit of chemistry over that span. Hornibrook had a strong freshman season a year ago while throwing 1,262 yards on 58.6 percent passing, but he had issues with avoiding sacks and he seems to be a good bit more poised this season, albeit Wisconsin has faced two mediocre opponents thus far. However, it is not likely that BYU will be the first team this season to stunt the Fumagalli-Hornibrook duo.
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.
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.
Expect the Badgers to predictably prevail, though BYU has a fair chance at covering the spread if the Badgers defense sags much. Wisconsin has allowed just 12 points per game through its first two, however, and that is the primary reason for the low over/under appropriated to this game my NCAA football oddsmakers.