As we continue to get closer and closer to kickoff, it’s time to talk about the most important aspect of the game...the betting preview of course. Over the last few seasons I’ve written up my thoughts on the spread and total for each Badgers game of the season. Last season the column went 18-10, so you made a nice profit if you followed the picks a year ago.
This year, though, is a whole new ballgame and betting on college football has been troublesome for a lot of bright sports betting minds. If you’ve read my Take Five column this year you’ve seen that it’s been a little cold of late, and I have seen that happen for a lot of people across the sport.
It’s a weird year, but with that creates opportunity, and the return of the Big Ten will hopefully lighten your spirits and fatten your wallets. I’ll still continue with the Take Five every week, but here let’s dive into our the betting preview for Friday nights opener.
To start the betting preview I always like to give some notable trends to help you make an informed betting decision. Generally, I like to focus on the Paul Chryst era exclusively as there is no reason to look at data from the dark Gary Andersen days. Of course in 2020 the team is much different without some usual faces, but there are still things to look for.
Wisconsin is 2-3 ATS against Illinois in the Paul Chryst era
Wisconsin is 14-18-1 ATS as a home favorite in the Paul Chryst era
Wisconsin is 24-22-1 ATS in conference games in the Paul Chryst era
Illinois is 8-9 ATS as a road underdog in the Lovie Smith era
Illinois is 8-5 ATS against ranked opponents in the Lovie Smith era
The over is 32-36 in the Paul Chryst era
The over is 24-25 in the Lovie Smith era
ATS Pick: Illinois (+19)
This line opened as high as 23.5 in some places, but has quickly been bet down to Illinois +18 to +19. It’s an intriguing line, especially if you were able to get it early as you could essentially have bet Illinois +23 and then also bet Wisconsin -19 later and hoped to find a middle at 21. It’s not often you see a four point disparity among books, so clearly odds makers are having trouble determining what to make of each of these teams.
I would have to agree with them as the numbers I project has this spread as a 20.5 in favor of Wisconsin. By that logic the value is on the Badgers here, but my gut is taking the Illini to start this season. Overall, I think Wisconsin still has a lot to figure out offensively and it may take them a quarter or two to really open up the playbook for freshman quarterback Graham Mertz. On the other side, Illinois has some receivers that can keep the ball moving, so the game will be a good test.
My score prediction was 31-17 in favor of Wisconsin, so I think Illinois is the play but I have no doubt you’ll be sweating it out until the clock strikes zero. With so many new aspects of the offense and less games to get it clicking, I imagine Wisconsin is going to continue to try and score. A late touchdown to cover is very much in play here if the game goes how I think it will.
Over/Under? Under 51
The over/under for this game opened at 54, but has since dropped to 51 over the course of the week. By the logic above I think you’ll see a game into the high 40’s, so again a late score might push it over. At 51 you get a key number for college football betting so you’re safe with an extra field goal, but an extra touchdown will hurt you no matter what. Backdoor covers and scores have been happening more and more this year, and it is something to stay weary of as an under bettor.
For me, I see Wisconsin looking to the ground game early and often to get the likes of Nakia Watson and Garrett Groshek in a rhythm. I also expect them to get Mertz some early easy completions, so I think the clock can really melt off in this one as the Badgers look to take it to the Illinois defensive line that has upperclassman but not a ton of experience. On the other side I expect Wisconsin to completely shut down an Illinois run game that appears subpar, which will create a lot of passing for Illinois. I think the secondary can slow them down, and as long as turnovers aren’t as prevalent in 2020, I think this game creeps just under the 51 mark.