Free College Football Picks: UNLV at Wisconsin Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 8/31/2011
It might not be recognized by the U.S. government or anything, but in my mind Thursday should be declared a national holiday because college football is finally back. It’s not a great opening night in terms of good teams as only two ranked clubs will play and both are huge favorites: No. 11 Wisconsin vs. UNLV and No. 20 Mississippi State at Memphis. Let’s take a look at that Rebels-Badgers game, which is the second year in a row the two teams have faced off. The game is on ESPN.
UNLV at Wisconsin Betting Storylines
Wisconsin was a three-way co-Big Ten Champion last year with Ohio State and Michigan State, and the Badgers are the favorites to win the (silly-named) new Leaders Division this season at +115 on WagerWeb. The Badgers, who lost in the Rose Bowl to TCU to close last season, are the second-favorites to Nebraska to win the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in 2011.
UNLV wasn’t a good team last year, finishing 2-11 and near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference. In last season’s opener in Vegas, Wisconsin won, 41-21. UW led by just 17-14 at the half before scoring 24 unanswered points. In reality, Wisconsin did dominate the first half, but two turnovers kept UNLV close. The Badgers stampeded the Rebels on the ground – as UW did to most everyone last year – with 278 yards. Montee Ball, who is back this year and forms a terrific 1-2 punch with James White, had 79 yards and two touchdowns. White, who led UW in rushing as a freshman in 2010, had 59 yards on 11 carries as Wisconsin rushed the ball 50 times compared to just 20 passes. Wisconsin outgained UNLV 279-12 in the first half, including 138 to minus-9 on the ground. It was the 13th straight season-opening win for the Badgers and dropped UNLV to 2-9 all-time vs. Big Ten teams. The Rebels weren’t good against ranked clubs last year, going 0-5 and allowing an average of 46 points per game. Their closest loss against a ranked team was 18 points vs. Nevada.
Many eyes tonight will be on new Badgers starting quarterback Russell Wilson, the former record-setter at N.C. State. Because Wilson wasn’t 100 percent sure he would return for his final season of eligibility with the Wolfpack due to a pro baseball career, he was cut loose from the school. Because Wilson had already graduated and Wisconsin offered a graduate program that N.C. State didn’t, he is eligible to play right away in a loophole (like, for example, Jeremiah Masoli last year at Ole Miss). In his three seasons with N.C. State, Wilson threw for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns with 26 interceptions. The Badgers better hope Wilson doesn’t get hurt because backup Jon Budmayr, the likely starter before Wilson arrived, is out with an elbow issue that might require surgery. Freshman Joe Brennan is now the No. 2.
The Rebels probably are going to need some time to jell. In 2010, first-year coach Bobby Hauck played 14 true freshmen, the fifth most in the nation. This season UNLV has 37 new players, including 11 redshirts, eight junior college transfers and 18 true freshmen. The Rebels were equally bad on both sides of the ball last season. They ranked 118th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense (274.2 yards per game) and 110th in scoring (18.4 points per game). And the defense allowed nearly 40 points and 450 yards per game. The Badgers averaged a school-record 41.5 points last season, scoring 70 or more three times.
Sophomore Caleb Herring held off a challenge from junior-college transfer Sean Reilly and is set to make his first start at QB for UNLV. Herring played in eight games last season. He completed 28 of 56 attempts for 365 yards, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He did not play in the Rebels' loss to UW. He has a green offensive line in front of him. The Rebels have no senior offensive linemen on the roster and two redshirt freshmen are set to start. Leading receiver Phillip Payne (689 yards and five touchdowns) and leading rusher Tim Cornett (546 yards, six TDs) are both back from last year. Only four starters are back on defense. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
UNLV at Wisconsin Odds and Betting Trends
Wisconsin is a 35-point favorite with the total at 56, according to college football odds. The line was 20.5 for last year’s game at UNLV. Nearly 60 percent of the lean is on UW.
UNLV is 4-0 ATS in its past four vs. the Big Ten. UW was 8-5 ATS last season and 5-3 at home. UNLV was 5-8 ATS last year and 0-7 on the road.
The ‘over’ is 6-1 in UNLV’s past seven nonconference games. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in UW’s past five nonconference games. UNLV has covered the past four meetings with Wisconsin (this will be the teams’ sixth meeting in 10 years).
Free College Football Picks: UNLV at Wisconsin Predictions
It’s always tough to predict an opener, especially with two teams starting new quarterbacks. Hauck was terrific as coach at Montana, so I’m sure he’s got this program on the right track. With that said, I think the Rebels can stay within four TDs or so. Thus, take the points and the ‘over’. Let’s call it a 45-17 final.
Most Recent College Football Handicapping
- Potential College Football Start Options During Covid-19 Pandemic
- 2020 Heisman Trophy Predictions
- National Championship Game Picks for Clemson vs. LSU
- Strong Underdogs for Bowl Game Betting: Possible Moneyline Paydays
- Expert College Bowl Game Handicapping: Coaching Uncertainty
- NCAA Bowl Game Wagering: Toughest Games to Handicap
- College Bowl Game Betting Advice: Biggest Mismatches
- NCAA Football Betting Odds: Championship Week Line Movements & Last-Minute News
- Pac 12 Championship Game Picks: Oregon vs. Utah
- College Football Betting Advice: Wagering on Championship Week Games