Wisconsin Win Total Prediction
After a promising first three years at Wisconsin, head coach Paul Chryst saw the Badgers have a somewhat disappointing 2018 season. Can Wisconsin bounce back in 2019?
After getting double-digit wins in his first three seasons with the Badgers, including a 13-1 record in 2017, Chryst and the Badgers were 8-5 last season overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten. According to oddsmakers, the Badgers come into the 2019 season with an over/under of 8.5 wins. The over is listed at -130, while the under is at +110
Wisconsin has always been a powerful team on the ground and that was the case last year as the Badgers were sixth nationally in rushing with 273.4 yards per game. Look for some more strong rushing this year with Jonathan Taylor returning for his junior year. The 5-11 back rushed for 1,989 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, which was actually more yards that Wisconsin had passing as a team. Taylor has two middle O-linemen starters back, but the Badgers haven’t had trouble replacing linemen when it comes to run blocking. The key for the Badgers will be in the pass game. Alex Hornibrook is gone and it looks like Jack Coan will take over. The junior threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns last season. If he can help take Wisconsin from 118th in passing to more middle of the nation, Wisconsin’s offense will be a beast.
Usually a big strength for Wisconsin, the Badgers were their usual dominant self on defense last year. They gave up 22.6 points and 344.2 yards per game. This year’s unit returns just three starters from last year, but gets back pass rusher Garrett Rand, who missed all of 2018 with a torn Achilles last summer. Zack Baun is the leading returning tackler with 63 tackles in 2018, including 7.5 tackles for loss. Wisconsin does have two returning in the secondary, which was the strength of the defense in 2018.
Wisconsin had some tough road games in 2018 and this year the Badgers get a little relief. They do open the year on the road against South Florida on Aug. 30. They will also host Central Michigan and Kent State in other non-conference games. When it comes to Big Ten play, the Badgers will host Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue. They make road trips to Illinois, Ohio State, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Like last season, Wisconsin has some very difficult Big Ten crossover games, arguably facing the three top teams from the East. That hurt them last year, allowing Northwestern to grab the West. The Badgers may have the top player in the entire conference in Taylor, so that can take them far. The key will be for the defense to improve on last year’s numbers while Coan can be a game manager that can hit the big throw from time-to-time. Given Wisconsin gets to host most of its big games in the division, nine wins is within reach. Going to Ohio State may not be as challenging without Urban Meyer, but a late trip to Nebraska could determine the West winner. Still, Wisconsin is a proud program that has been consistent at getting to 9-10 wins and I would expect them to return to form this year. The returning players should be plenty motivated.
College Football Prediction: Wisconsin Over 8.5 wins -130