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Western Kentucky vs. Wisconsin betting preview

The Badgers come in as heavy favorites. Will they cover?

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NCAA Football: Maryland at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Spread and Total are based on 8 a.m. odds. For the latest odds, visit Action Network.


The Wisconsin Badgers come into Friday night’s opener as a significant favorite at most sportsbooks across world, and for good reasoning. Wisconsin returns a plethora of talent on both sides of the football while the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers look to replace multiple key players. As it sits right now, the Badgers are 36.5-point favorites against the Hilltoppers, with the total sitting at 53 on most sites.

In order to really analyze any trends, I like to look at the stats from when the current head coach took over. While you can look at more historical data from different coaching eras, these numbers can be skewed while betting on current games as different coaches have different offenses, philosophies etc.

Here are some trends worth noting:

  • Against the spread (ATS) last season, the Badgers were 9–5–0 (64.3 percent) with the total hitting 8–6 in favor of the over. WKU was 3–10 ATS with the total hitting 7–6 in favor of the over.
  • Since the Paul Chryst era began in 2017, the Badgers have gone 9–9–1 ATS when favored at home and 19–14–1 ATS as a favorite overall. In non-conference games, Wisconsin has gone 8–5 ATS. In Week 1 contests, the Badgers have gone just 3–7 ATS over the last 10 seasons.
  • The 36-point spread is the largest in the Chryst era, with Wisconsin going just 1–2 in games where they have been favored by more than 30 since 2015.
  • For Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers enter just the second season under Mike Sanford, so there is not a lot of historical data to go off of. However, the Hilltoppers were 1–6 ATS on the road last season.
  • As for the total, the Badgers are 9–10 in favor of the under while in the Chryst era as home favorites, and 6–7 in favor of the under in non-conference games.

SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I know, I know. That was a lot of numbers. But each of these statistical trends can go a long way in deciding what picks to make before tonight’s contest. Overall, I find a few points above stick out more than most.

The 36 points being the highest spread since Chryst took over is pretty significant. Also, only going 3-of-10 in opening-week contests over the past decade is worth noting. Despite that, the public is still backing the Badgers with Wisconsin getting 67 percent of the bets.

As for the total, in five of the last seven games in August, the under has hit in Wisconsin contests. It depends on how you think Wisconsin will fare in the spread. If you believe the Badgers will cover the 36 points, then you need 17 points combined on top of that. Currently, the public is backing the over at 78 percent.

Final word

Generally, I don’t like to give picks. I prefer to pass along the data and trends and let everyone else decide from there, as we all have our opinions. But, I’ll give some thoughts. 36.5 points is a lot of points. It’s the second-highest spread for Week 1 behind Ohio State (-39) against Oregon State. I would lean toward fading the public and taking the +36.5 for the Hilltoppers. As for the total, I tend to lean over thinking the Badgers can get to into the 40s and banking on WKU to come up with the rest at some point in the contest.

Best of luck, and please bet responsibly!