Pick with Analysis
Probably the biggest Game of college football’s opening week is this matchup right here, which is the only Game that features two Top 25 teams. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll know exactly what to expect from them. Wisconsin has another new coach in Paul Chryst, while Nick Saban still hadn’t named Alabama’s starting quarterback a week before the Game. The Crimson Tide are a -10 point favorite (at 5Dimes) for the Game at AT&T Stadium.
In somewhat of a surprise, redshirt junior Alec Morris was said to have the lead in the Alabama quarterback race in late August. It’s a surprise because senior Jake Coker was expected to takeover since he had the most experience (albeit minimal) and looked solid in limited action last season. Sophomore Cooper Bateman is also in the hunt. Whomever takes over will have a mostly new team around him as ‘Bama doesn’t return much from last year’s offense. Running backs Derrick Henry (990 yards, 11 TDs) and Kenyan Drake are expected to get the ball a ton, though, which isn’t anything new for this team. The Tide lose a few starters along the line, but that shouldn’t matter too much because they’ll probably once again be one of the best in the country, as they still have plenty of experience at tackle and center.
The new quarterback will have a lesser group of receivers to work with, that’s for sure, as stud Amari Cooper (124 receptions) is in the NFL. They’ll need someone like ArDarius Stewart or Chris Black to step up along the way.
Wisconsin faced LSU in their opener last year and the Badgers just didn’t have enough in a 28-24 loss. Their defense was not at the level needed to stop an SEC team, even though the Tigers weren’t a great offensive team to begin with. With a new head coach, 12 returning starters and a continued question at quarterback, it’ll be tough for them to come out on top here.
Alabama is not a team that Wisconsin can win the line-of-scrimmage battle with, meaning their run-first strategy may not work. They found room to run against LSU last year, but Alabama is another animal, and in the end, their QB problems were too much to overcome.
Badgers quarterback Joel Stave is said to have more confidence coming into this year as a senior, but it’s hard to believe all of that considering he had nine TDs and 10 INTs last year behind one of the best running Games in the nation. Corey Clement (949 yards, 9 TDs) and his backups will be a solid unit, but it’s hard to see them being as good as Melvin Gordon and Clement were last year. Stave has a bigger focus on him and going against Alabama in the first Game of 2015 will be tough. He gets top receiver Alex Erickson (55 receptions) back, but the offensive line is mostly fresh with three new starters.
As for the Tide on the defensive end, they’ll once again be one of the country’s best with the front seven being the best part. Their question again is in the secondary, which may not even matter against Stave and the Badgers.
Unless Wisconsin can stop Alabama’s run Game and Stave can move the ball against this defense, it’s hard to see the Badgers coming out with a win. Then again, Alabama didn’t look great in their opener last year against West Virginia and their quarterback question could present a problem.
Our Pick – since 2005 Wisconsin is 3-4 against the SEC but those 4 losses came by 4, 10, 4 and 3 and includes last years opening day loss, 28-24 to LSU. They also knocked off Auburn 34-31 on New Years Day.
We know the Badgers can recruit the talent to play with the SEC. What ultimately keeps us from getting involved here is that it seems like an awfully tall order for Paul Chryst.
Nick Saban knows what he has. He just plugs in the missing pieces and the MAChine keeps churning. For Paul Chryst, there’s a learning curve.
We lean towards Alabama at -10 or better here. The under 51 could be worth a look as well, though the early birds got under 53 (even under 55.5 at betonline)