The No. 19 ranked Wisconsin Badgers will head down south to Tampa, FL to take on the USF Bulls in the 2019 season opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7:00 EST at Raymond James Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.
The oddsmakers have made quite the adjustment on this contest. When the books first made this game available to bet they had Wisconsin as a mere 9.5-point road favorite. That didn’t last long and as of right now the Badgers are a 13.5-point favorite. Total here is either 57.5 or a straight 57 depending on where you shop.
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Vegas Game Preview & Betting Odds: South Florida vs Wisconsin
The Badgers are coming off a very disappointing 8-5 campaign. I know a lot of team would take 8-wins, but expectations were so high going into 2018. Wisconsin had a lot coming back from a team that went 13-1 in 2017.
The big shocker came early when they were upset at home by BYU. They still went 5-4 in Big Ten play, but all 4 losses were by double-digits (hadn’t lost a game by more than 7 since getting crushed by Alabama in Week 1 of the 2015 season).
Wisconsin had been the consensus pick to win the Big Ten West for several years, but that’s not the case in 2019. It didn’t help that starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook transferred to FSU and there’s just 12 starters (6 offense, 6 defense) back. They might not be the favorite, but you can’t count out Paul Chryst’s team to surprise.
The Bulls finished last year at 7-6. A winning record is almost always a positive for a program, but I got hard time believing USF is excited about 2018. That’s because the Bulls finished the year with 6 straight losses after starting the season 7-0. It also hurt a little more given the team was off a 10-win season in 2017.
Sure the schedule got a lot harder at the end of last year, but the bigger thing is how easy the schedule was to start out. Not to mention they struggled against some bad teams. They only beat Illinois by 6, East Carolina by 7, Tulsa by 1 and UConn by 8. Those for teams won a combined 11 games on the year (none had more than 4 wins).
With 15 starters (9 offense, 8 defense), including senior QB Blake Barnett, there’s definitely some optimism going into what will be year three under Charlie Strong.
College Football Free Predictions & Betting Pick: Wisconsin -13.5
My early lean here would have to be on the Badgers to win this one by at least 14 points. I just think people are sleeping on this Wisconsin team in 2019. Everyone is on the Nebraska bandwagon and several also have Iowa pegged ahead of them in the West (beat Iowa 28-17 on the road and Nebraska 41-24 at home before injuries derailed their season).
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I think the biggest thing that scares people and what’s keeping the number lower than it should be is the uncertainty at quarterback for the Badgers. No one has been named the starter, but from what I’m reading, junior Jack Coan is the guy. Coan played in 6 and started 4 last year. Word is he’s a lot stronger and has more zip on the ball.
I’m not going to say the quarterback position isn’t important. It is. I just think it doesn’t matter as much with a predominant running team like Wisconsin. They have won a lot of games with pretty average QB play.
Speaking of the run game, the Badgers welcome back one of the best in the country in junior Jonathan Taylor. The lack of hype this kid is getting going into 2019 is crazy. After rushing for 1,977 yards as a true freshmen, he put up 2,194 yards as a sophomore. That’s 4,171 yards in his first two seasons. Melvin Gordon is 3rd all-time at Wisconsin with 4,915 yards and he played 4 years.
South Florida gave up 248 ypg and 5.1 yards/carry last year. They had 4 different games where they allowed 320+ yards. They only got 6 starters back on defense and have to replace two of their top 3 tacklers.
Wisconsin’s defense was as bad as it has been in a long time in 2018, which is crazy cause they gave up a mere 22.6 ppg and 344 ypg. Injuries were a big part of that. I expect them to return to form and while USF has some talent on offense, they are going to have a hard time moving the ball in this game.
Lastly, I don’t really trust Charlie Strong. He got a lot of praise for going 10-2 in his first year on the job, but those were Willie Taggert’s kids. He inherited 16 starters from a team that won 11-games the previous season. Give me Wisconsin -13.5!