Wisconsin Betting Odds Preview

The first season of the Gary Andersen era at Wisconsin went a lot like many of the Badgers' recent campaigns. They won the games they should have, lost a couple of close ones, then lost their bowl game.

Some Wisconsin fans thought Andersen would move the Badgers away from the power running game, but the ground production actually increased by 50 yards per game last year, to 284. This year Wisconsin will probably be fine on offense, but there are a lot of holes to fill on defense. Nonetheless, the Badgers are considered the best team in the weak Big Ten West.

Wisconsin Odds to Win Big Ten: 9/2 at Bovada
Wisconsin Odds to Win College Football Championship: 33/1 at Bovada
Wisconsin Regular Season Win Total: 9.5 at Bovada
Wisconsin Betting Props: Melvin Gordon to Win Heisman 16/1 at Bovada

Wisconsin opened last season with a couple of warm-up, shutout victories, but then botched a chance to win at Arizona State. A couple weeks later the Badgers lost a tough one at Ohio State. Six straight wins followed, but the season ended with consecutive losses to Penn State and, in the Capital One Bowl, to South Carolina. So Wisconsin finished 9-4 both SU and ATS.

This year Wisconsin returns just 10 starters, fewest in the conference. Seven starters are back on offense, including QB Joel Stave, Heisman candidate RB Melvin Gordon (7.8 career yards-per-carry) and four along what should be one of the best offensive lines in college football. But just three starters return on defense, none among the front seven.

The Badgers open this season with a game against LSU in Houston, and later play two of the other expected contenders in the West, Iowa and Northwestern, on the road. But they get Nebraska and Minnesota at home, and somehow miss Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan. How can one call this a Big Ten schedule without playing those three teams?

To reach the Big Ten Championship Game again Wisconsin will need improved play from the QB spot and holes filled quickly on defense. But the schedule also helps. And a win over LSU and a run to the conference title would likely earn the Badgers a spot in this season's four-team College Football Playoffs.

Big Ten Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5

Ohio State 10/11
Michigan State 15/4
Wisconsin 9/2
Nebraska 11/2
Michigan 10/1
Iowa 12/1
Northwestern 40/1
Minnesota 66/1
Indiana 100/1
Maryland 100/1
Illinois 200/1
Rutgers 200/1
Purdue 300/1

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It doesn't really matter how they got there; years from now, when we look through the archives, it will say the Wisconsin Badgers won the first two Big Ten championship games. It might not say Ohio State and Penn State, two teams that beat Wisconsin last year, were both ineligible for the title last season, and that'll be just fine with Badger Nation. UW now goes in search of a third straight conference title with a new head coach, after the somewhat surprising departure of Bret Bielema. But maybe the Badgers were due for a shake-up anyway.  

Odds to Win Big Ten: +1000 at 5Dimes
Regular Season Win Total: 9 at Bovada

Wisconsin lost six games last year; each one to a bowl-bound team (except Penn State, which went 8-4 but was ineligible for a bowl), each one by a touchdown or less. The Badgers only went 4-4 in Big Ten play, but the two teams that finished above them in the Leaders Division were serving postseason bans. So it was off to Indianapolis again, where this time, after outlasting Michigan State the previous December, Wisconsin put on a clinic, racking up over 500 yards on the ground and scoring 10 touchdowns in trouncing Nebraska 70-31. But between winning the conference championship and playing in the Rose Bowl coach Bielema announced he was leaving Madison for Arkansas.

So former head coach and current AD Barry Alvarez stepped in to coach one more game, and almost boosted his Rose Bowl record to 4-0 until a late interception ended the Badgers' hopes in the 20-14 loss to a very good Stanford team. Wisconsin finished 8-6 overall, 5-4 in conference play and 6-7-1 ATS. UW then got lucky when it pried Gary Andersen away from Utah State, where he took the Aggies from 3-9 the year before he got there to 11-2 in four seasons. In fact, Andersen's USU squad should have beaten Wisconsin at Camp Randall last September, if not for a short missed field goal at the buzzer. Bielema certainly didn't bail on an empty cupboard.

Eight starters return on offense, including three decent options at QB, two very good options at RB, all-Big Ten WR Jared Abbrederis, and three starters on the offensive line; and six starters are back from a defense that held foes to 19 PPG last year.

Wisconsin opens this season with scrimmages against UMass and Tennessee Tech, visits Arizona State, then opens Big Ten play with a home game against Purdue. But then comes the Big One, the game that might decide the division championship; Ohio State in Columbus. After that, the Badgers should be favored in every game. They host Northwestern, BYU, Indiana, and Penn State, and visit Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. And they miss Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska. Can't ask for much more than that.
 
Big Ten Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 5

Ohio State -115
Michigan +520
Nebraska +750
Michigan State +800
Northwestern +900
Wisconsin +1000
Indiana +5000
Iowa +5000
Minnesota +8500
Purdue +10000
Illinois +20000

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