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Wisconsin vs. LSU predictions: 5th Quarter Consensus says Badgers, Tigers will play close game

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In a battle of two teams with inexperienced personnel, strong running games and questions at quarterback, B5Q couldn't come to an agreement on who will ultimately prevail.

LSU running back Terrence Magee.
LSU running back Terrence Magee.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Predictions

Louis Bien: Wisconsin 24, LSU 23

Mike Fiammetta: Wisconsin 27, LSU 24

Drew Hamm: Wisconsin 24, LSU 21

Jake Harris: LSU 27, Wisconsin 21

Andy Johnson: LSU 28, Wisconsin 27

Jake Kocorowski: LSU 33, Wisconsin 27

Phil Mitten: LSU 27, Wisconsin 24

Andrew Rosin: Wisconsin 31, LSU 27

The Reasoning

HOUSTON -- One of the toughest season-openers to predict in recent memory has our panel in a 4-4 deadlock. Both Wisconsin and LSU are breaking in several inexperienced players on both sides of the ball and the two teams haven't played each other since 1972. A win in Houston could catapult either team to a special season and possibly a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Both the Badgers and Tigers have strong, proven running games and question marks at quarterback. It has been reported that sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings will get the start for LSU and that junior Tanner McEvoy will make his first start as a signal caller at the Division I level for Wisconsin. Jennings has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in his career and has started just one game, a win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl last year.

As a result, LSU will lean heavily on a running game that boasts three talented backs and an offensive line that returns at least three starters. Left tackle La'el Collins, left guard Vadal Alexander and right tackle Jerald Hawkins have 60 combined starts and are talented run blockers. They will try and open holes for returning tailbacks Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, as well as much-hyped true freshman Leonard Fournette.

While Hilliard has played in 37 collegiate games and Magee rushed for 626 yards and eight touchdowns last season, it is Fournette that may put the biggest scare into the Wisconsin defense. One of the top recruits in the country in 2014, Fournette has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson for his running style and even to Michael Jordan for his individual dominance.

Expect the Tigers to test the Badgers' brand-new front seven with the run until UW stops them. Wisconsin lost all seven senior starters from a season ago, including NFL talents in nose tackle Beau Allen and inside linebacker Chris Borland. This year's unit makes up in athleticism what it lacks in experience. Warren Herring provides a pass-rushing presence at the nose tackle position, while promising freshman Chikwe Obasih and senior linebacker Derrick Landisch bring some play-making ability as well. The Badgers were stout against the run a season ago and will look to force LSU into obvious passing situations to allow their pass rushers to tee off and make things easier for a veteran secondary led by junior safety Michael Caputo and sophomore cornerback Sojourn Shelton.

The Tigers will be without freshman wide receiver Malachi Dupre, a talented prospect who was expected to play this season, so Travin Dural, John Diarse and Trey Quinn will be the primary receiving options for Jennings.

When the Badgers have the ball, they will go up against a talented LSU defense, likely with a quarterback who has yet to start a Divison I game at the position. McEvoy is expected to make his first start at quarterback, but he did see significant action at safety in some big games in 2013. The coaching staff appears to have opted for McEvoy's athleticism and play-making ability over incumbent Joel Stave's experience and leadership.

Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon returns at tailback, as does sophomore Corey Clement, and they could form the most talented duo at the position in the country. Look for the two backs to appear on the field together at times and to be more involved in the passing game, as well. This game is critical for Gordon's chance at the Heisman and for his team's chance at a berth in the Playoff. He returned to Wisconsin for his junior year when he easily could've turned pro and it was for the purpose of shining in games like this. The Badgers will give Gordon all the work he can handle.

Wisconsin returns four of its five starters on the offensive line from 2013. Last year's line helped the offense set school records in yards per game and rushing yards per game. Senior right tackle Rob Havenstein is the unquestioned leader of the unit and they will look to establish a physical presence early and often.

Wide receiver initially appeared to be a position of weakness for Wisconsin, but it may actually be a position of considerable depth. True freshmen George Rushing, Natrell Jamerson and Krenwick Sanders impressed during fall camp and should see playing time. Reggie Love stepped up and looks like a top target, while Kenzel Doe and Alex Erickson remain steady.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter and tackle Jermauria Rasco return for LSU. Rasco led the team in sacks last season, while Hunter is primed for a big season in the SEC. Inside linebacker D.J. Welter started every game for the Tigers last season, while outside linebacker Kwon Alexander amassed 65 tackles during his sophomore year.

LSU is notorious for producing talented defensive backs who end up playing in the NFL, and there is no shortage of young talent at Les Miles' disposal in 2014. Sophomore cornerback Tre'Davious White earned freshman All-SEC accolades last year, while senior safety Ronald Martin also returns. Expect the Tiger defensive backs to get very physical with Wisconsin's wide receivers and play aggressive press coverage. LSU will be without sophomore corner Rashard Robinson, who is not making the trip to Houston.

Should the game come down to a field goal attempt, the Badgers will roll the dice with true freshman Rafael Gaglianone, a former soccer player from Brazil. The Tigers will rely on sophomore kicker Colby Delahoussaye, who made 13 field goals in 2013.

LSU should enjoy a sizable home-field advantage, with Houston just a four-hour drive from Baton Rouge. Nonetheless, Wisconsin appears to have a nice contingent here in Texas and the young personnel on both teams will battle nerves and emotion. Expect a close game between two teams who are nearly mirror images of one another on offense. It all may come down to who has the ball last.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Wisconsin

Defense: LSU

Special Teams: LSU

Coaching: LSU

Intangibles: LSU