Andrew Rosin (+15): Wisconsin 34, Arizona State 31
Phil Mitten (+22): Arizona State 27, Wisconsin 24
Andy Johnson (+25): Wisconsin 38, Arizona State 27
Jake Harris (+26): Arizona State 28, Wisconsin 21
Mike Fiammetta (+28): Wisconsin 42, Arizona State 38
Jake Kocorowski (+37): Arizona State 31, Wisconsin 28
Louis Bien (+58): Arizona State 28, Wisconsin 27
TEMPE, Ariz. - The headline is misleading and there is no copy editor to blame. Rather than a consensus, we have a 4-3 split this week, reflecting just how hard the matchup between Wisconsin and Arizona State is to assess. Neither of these teams has allowed a point this season, with the Sun Devils having blanked Sacramento State in its only game of the season and the Badgers having shut out both Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech. That streak will end for at least one of these teams Saturday night in the desert.
Big Ten teams are 0-8 in Sun Devil Stadium over the last half-century and many attribute that to the difficulty of adjusting to the hot Arizona weather and a time zone two hours earlier. This game may not end until 1:00 in the morning in Madison, which is sure to test the Badgers' endurance. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be between 95 and 97 degrees, and it will likely be hotter on the field. These reasons help explain why Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen wanted his team to arrive in Tempe on Thursday instead of Friday.
There is also the small matter of the Sun Devils being a pretty decent football team. Highly-touted junior quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 23 of 31 passes in the opener for 300 yards and five touchdowns. In his first season as a starter, Kelly completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 3,039 yards with a 29-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He added 516 yards on the ground.
Containing Kelly will be the job of the Badgers' deep and experienced front seven. Expect defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to unveil an array of complicated formations and pressures to try and rattle the veteran quarterback. Inside linebacker Derek Landisch is out for this game, but instead of replacing him with Conor O'Neill, senior Ethan Armstrong will slide to the inside, while Joe Schobert will make his first start at outside linebacker. Rest assured, O'Neill, as well as all the defenders in the Badger two-deep, will play plenty against the Devils' fast-paced offense.
Senior running back Marion Grice has big-play capability and averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season. Sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong caught six passes for 58 yards against Sacramento State and can stretch the field. While Kelly's receiving corps is inexperienced, it is talented, and the Badgers' young secondary, led by Dezmen Southward, will need to be at its best.
Offensively, the Badgers have had three running backs rush for over 100 yards in three of their last four games. That is an impressive feat no matter the competition. Wisconsin's offensive line has been a pleasant surprise through the first two games and it is critical that the unit play well against the Sun Devils. Senior nose tackle Will Sutton has NFL potential, while the back eight are speedy and physical.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave has improved steadily over the first two games, but he will need to be especially sharp against the tight coverage of the Sun Devils. Stave has experience in a hostile environment by virtue of his start at Nebraska in 2012. If he can avoid his usual one bad interception per game, the Badgers may be able to take the crowd out of the game by putting together some extended drives.
If this game comes down to a kick, neither team will like its chances. Kyle French has struggled mightily for the Badgers, such that Andersen reopened the competition for that role this week. Zane Gonzalez made just two of his four field-goal attempts in the opener.
Under former head coach Bret Bielema, the Badgers went 1-6 in Big Ten road openers. This is a non-conference tilt, but it still represents Wisconsin's first true test away from Camp Randall Stadium. Perhaps the new coaching staff will change the team's fortunes in such situations. The fans wearing red in Arizona - of which there are many - certainly hope so.
Who has the edge?
Offense: Arizona State
Special Teams: Push
Intangibles: Arizona State