The Bobby Hauck era begins in Saturday night’s final NCAA game (11 p.m. ET, Versus TV) as Hauck, who went 80-17 over the previous seven seasons at Montana and appeared in three FCS national title games, leads UNLV in an upset attempt against visiting No. 12 Wisconsin.
Hauck, who was the winningest coach in Big Sky Conference history, looks to become the sixth head coach in school history to win his opening game leading the Rebels, and UNLV has won four openers in a row overall. But none of those were against the quality of Wisconsin, which has won 24 consecutive regular-season games against non-conference opponents. But its last loss? At home to UNLV in 2003. This is Wisconsin’ first road opener since that season but the Badgers have won has won 12 consecutive season openers.
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College football predictions: Team breakdowns
UNLV will start junior Mike Clausen at quarterback as he beat out senior Omar Clayton, who had started each of the last two openers for the Rebels. Clausen isn’t inexperienced, having played in 21 games and started four. Overall he finished 52-for-88 for 463 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in 2009. Clausen came off the bench last year in UNLV’s second game and nearly directed an upset of ranked Oregon State. One problem: UNLV rushed for just 126.8 yards per game last year.
Wisconsin’s 18 starters back (10 offense, six defense, two specialists) from 2009 leads the Big Ten. UW’s top six rushers, top two passers and seven of its top eight receivers all return from last year. QB Scott Tolzien, a huge surprise in ’09 in leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency, is back and UW might have the best offensive line in the nation. But the key is definitely running back John Clay, who was the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns. However, he had surgery on both ankles in the offseason, so the Badgers will take it a bit slow with him even though he professes to be healthy. Thus he’s very unlikely to see anything close to the 22 carries per game that he averaged last season.
That’s too bad because Clay could get an early Heisman start against what was a lousy UNLV defense last year, ranking 115th among 120 teams nationally, allowing 456.2 yards per game – 220.6 against the run (112th nationally) and 235.6 against the pass.
Both teams are pretty healthy as you would expect at this time of year, but Badgers linebacker Mike Taylor (knee) is a game-time decision.
Wisconsin leads the all-time series 6-2 and won the last meeting in 2007, 20-13 in Vegas. UNLV is 5-26 all-time against ranked teams and has lost 12 in a row at home against Top 25 clubs.
Wisconsin vs. UNLV betting odds
The Badgers are 20.5-point favorites with a total at 57.5. Currently Wisconsin is getting about an 82 percent lean. The line opened as low as 18 at some books, while the total is about 1.5 points higher than it opened at most places.
Wisconsin vs. UNLV betting trends
The ‘over’ is 6-2 in Wisconsin’s last eight road games.
UNLV finished last season 2-8 ATS in its final 10 games.
The ‘under’ is 6-2 in UNLV’s last eight home games.
The Badgers are 15-7 in their past 22 non-conference games.
Wisconsin vs. UNLV Betting Predictions and Football Picks
The Rebs have won one home game in their history over a ranked opponent, that coming in 1984 when they were led by some guy named Randall Cunningham. It’s hard to ignore that porous UNLV defense, but at least the Rebels have the element of surprise with Hauck, although UW coaches have studied films of Montana.
However, with the late night start (for UW) and the fact this is Wisconsin’s only road game for a month, I think the Badgers might be a bit distracted and UNLV does barely cover. I’d also go with the ‘under’
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