Wisconsin Badgers Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
Paul Chryst is proof that looking smarter is as much about where you are as who or what you are. At Pitt he looked like a very ordinary coach. He was exactly .500 through three seasons. He hasn't changed much about what he is doing since returning to Wisconsin, and while his talent and resources are better they aren't exactly profound, but he is 21-6 through two years, has two bowl wins, and has a decent look at an 11- or 12-win season again this year. He's doing a very good job, and his team is poised, with a big help from circumstances, to have a very strong season.
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2016 in a Nutshell
Things started out extremely well as the Badgers beat LSU, led on defense by their former defensive coordinator, at Lambeau Field to open the season. The good times rolled for three more weeks, capped by a win at Michigan State before we realized how bad the Spartans were. But then they hit the toughest stretch of their schedule, and it didn't go so well. They lost by a touchdown at Michigan and then after a bye week lost at home in overtime to Ohio State. True national ambitions died there, but there was still plenty to play for. Six straight conference wins sewed up the division, and they lost by a touchdown to Penn State in a very exciting Big Ten Championship Game. A record of 10-3 was good enough for a Cotton Bowl berth against Western Michigan, and they earned their 11th win fairly comfortably there. All in all it was a mixed season - they won 11 games, but the three losses came to the three best teams in the other division of the Big Ten. They were the best of the rest, but on a national stage that just isn't good enough.
Key Additions and Departures
The Badgers had three players drafted, including two at the bottom of the first round - linebacker T.J. Watt and All-American offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk. They also lost another very good linebacker in Vince Biegel to the draft, and four big pieces as undrafted free agents - their two top running backs and two strong corners. They are also on their third defensive coordinator in three years under Chryst, as Justin Wilcox used the position as a springboard to the head job at Cal - a hire that isn't going to work out for Cal, but that's an opinion for another time. Jim Leonhard took over, and that isn't confidence inspiring. A former walk-on turned Wisconsin legend who had a decade in the NFL, Leonhard is short on coaching experience - last year as DB coach was his only paid coaching experience - and this seems like too much, too soon. It's particularly striking after they have had two straight blue chip guys in the role.
They have plenty of options on the O-line and should have a typically stout Wisconsin line to run behind. The bigger concern, though, is at quarterback. Alex Hornibrook is back and is a redshirt sophomore now. He couldn't grab the starting job last year, though, and wound up essentially platooning with Bart Houston. Houston graduated, though, so uncertainty at this key position is a reality. Hornibrook should take a step forward as things slow down, but if he doesn't then there could be some issues. Behind Hornibrook is a couple of very inexperienced youngsters, so they are betting big on him. That's a bit scary.
It's a small and not obviously impressive recruiting class that arrives in Madison, but that's just the reality for Wisconsin, and they always find guys under the radar who shine - usually really, really big guys.
Wisconsin Badgers Schedule Analysis
I could pretend things like a trip to Northwestern or a home game against Nebraska could potentially be really tough. Let's be honest, though - if Hornibrook is okay and the team plays like they should then this is a one-game season. The nonconference schedule is soft, and they avoid both Ohio State and Penn State. There is really no reason that they can't win 11 of their games - most handily. The season, then, could be defined by a Nov. 18 home game against Michigan. And what a game that has the potential to be - Wisconsin playing for a perfect record potentially, and Michigan looking to go into the game against Ohio State the next week as strong as possible. Win or lose that one, the team is very well poised to return to the Big Ten Championship Game, but they have to have a win there to have any chance of a playoff bid in all likelihood. Otherwise they will have a fat record that will be easy to discard because they won't have beaten anyone.
2017-18 Wisconsin Badgers Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has the Badgers at +5000 to win the national title , which puts them behind 17 other teams. I could argue that there is at least some relative value there because their path to an unbeaten regular season is more manageable to many, and their berth in the conference championship game won't be too tough to earn. They are the second choice to win the Big Ten at +300. That's far behind heavy favorites Ohio State at -115 but well ahead of Michigan and Penn State - a reflection again of their virtual bye into the championship game compared to the dogfight facing the big three in the other division. The Badgers open the season on Sept. 1 against Utah State, and oddsmakers aren't too worried about their chances - they are currently 29-point favorites .
The team was a solid 9-4-1 ATS, but they did not finish strong, going 0-2-1 ATS in the final three. The slight profit came on the "under" when it came to totals - it had the 8-6 edge compared to the "over". They went over in their last four regular-season games, though, so they were consistently tough to read on this front.
2017-18 Wisconsin Badgers Predictions and College Football Picks
I think this team is going to win 11 games, lose to Michigan, lose again in the Big Ten Championship Game, and then beat a decent opponent in their bowl to improve to 12 wins. It won't be all they dreamed of, but it's the best they can hope for given their relative talent deficits to the big two in the conference.
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