College Football Pick
Wisconsin has high hopes this season with the College Football Playoff in view, but there’s still a long way to go. The Badgers will look to start on a good note as heavy -28.5 point favorites (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) against a Utah State squad that had just three wins a year ago.
This spread seems huge for a number of reasons, the biggest of them being that Wisconsin’s offense wasn’t good or consistent last year with 28.4 points per Game. It was only a year ago that they beat Georgia State just 23-17 and while they figured some things out late in the season, still have a question at quarterback. Alex Hornibrook is set to be the main starter in his sophomore year after getting plenty of hype in the offseason. Still, his numbers from last year can’t be overlooked with a 58.6% completion rate to go with nine touchdowns and seven picks. To go with that, Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale are gone from the backfield with Bradrick Shaw (457 yards) and Pitt transfer Chris James taking over.
The Badgers will be fine because they return all five starters on the line, but the passing Game is still unknown even with top receivers Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli there to help Hornibrook. This team will continue to win Games by defense and running the ball, but that doesn’t usually allow for many blowouts.
And while Utah State only had three wins last year, its defense kept them close in plenty of Games, namely back-to-back road trips to Boise State and Colorado State early on. With seven starters back on the defensive side, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Aggies kept this Game close due to defense alone.
Of course, scoring is another question against the vaunted Wisconsin defense. Throw in an offense that went for 23.9 points per Game a year ago and USU will have trouble finding the end zone in this one. Kent Myers (10 TDs, 8 INTs) needs to improve in his senior season or this team will struggle to get wins once again. Returning skill players are still around in running back Tonny Lindsey and receivers Ron’quavion Tarver and Rayshad Lewis, but that may not be enough. The Aggies return just one full-time starter on the line, which isn’t a recipe for success against this Badgers front.
Wisconsin is expected to win the Big Ten West again because of its defense with guys like Conor Sheehy and T.J. Edwards still around. However, it can’t be overlooked that this will be the first Game of the season and the first without stud linebacker Jack Cichy, who’s out for the season with a torn ACL. With only five starters back on the defensive side, the Badgers may not be as good defensively as a year ago. If that’s the case, that will only help Myers and Utah State keep this Game competitive.
Our Pick – Wisconsin will use defense and a rushing attack to win this Game, but covering will be tough, even at home. If the Aggies can make a couple early stops on the defensive side, that may be enough to keep this Game fairly close and if Myers can move the ball, even better for Utah State backers. Utah State +28.5