If you’re reading this, you probably are desperately missing sports. BUT thanks to Vegas, we have a little bit to discuss on the football front. Every spring, Vegas comes out with early betting lines for a select number of college football games. Those 20-30 games are deemed “Games of the Year” by oddsmakers. That means if you have a strong inclination for the BYU/Utah game on March 27th, you can bet it NOW, even though the game won’t be happening until September.......hopefully (block out the terrible rumors for now).
This year Vegas selected 26 games for the Game of the Year circuit, with the Wisconsin Badgers featured in four of them. Yes, it appears oddsmakers believe that the Badgers have plenty of high profile games on their schedule this year, and right now you can hop on any line you see fit. Here’s a breakdown of each of the four contests, if you’re so inclined to bet a game five months before opening kick.
September 26th, 2020: Wisconsin @ Michigan (-3.5)
The first of the four games featuring the Badgers is their road trip to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan has dominated the overall series 51-16, but the Wolverines are not what they once were. In the Paul Chryst/Jim Harbaugh era these two schools have split 2-2, with each team winning their home contests. Last season the Badgers trounced the Wolverines 35-14 which ignited a real belief in the possibilities for Wisconsin.
In 2020, both schools will have some radical changes to their personnel. For Wisconsin, they lose their top three offensive players in Jonathan Taylor, Quintez Cephus and Tyler Biadasz. For Michigan they lose signal caller Shea Patterson, but many feel the presence of Dylan McCaffrey will up the offense’s ability. The real struggle will be on the line, as the Wolverines will have to replace four of their starters from a season ago.
With so much roster turnover on both squads, it’s hard to say which side to take, but 3.5 is a key number. I’d take the Badgers and the points knowing that an experienced defensive line could give Michigan fits if they don’t develop in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
October 3rd, 2020: Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (-1)
Next we head to the FROZEN TUNDRA of Lambeau Field, which probably won’t be that Frozen in October but ignore that for now. Wisconsin and the Irish will square off in Lambeau in 2020, and then again in 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago. The opening line for this ‘neutral’ site game lists the Badgers as a slight one point favorite.
Ian Book will be back for the Irish, but who makes plays around him will be the biggest question mark. With very little returning for running back and receiver, book will have to find some new targets this spring... oh wait, spring football is canceled too. That could have an impact as the Irish look to try and figure out the offensive weapons around him.
The Irish defense however, should be a strength. At linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has the potential to be the next dominating linebacker for the Irish. Overall, the match-up between these two seems dead even right now. Due to that, I don’t see much value in making a bet right now. Plus, if you want to bet Wisconsin, this line will likely come back to them as an underdog with so many Irish fans betting Notre Dame blindly.
October 10th, 2020: Minnesota @ Wisconsin (-7.5)
A week after the Badgers trip to Lambeau they return to Madison to take on their arch rival Minnesota and the Fighting Flecks. As of now the Badgers are anywhere from a 7-10 point favorite in the contest depending on the book you fancy.
Minnesota is best described as two sided coming into 2020. On offense the Gophers return most of their key pieces that led them to a strong 11-2 season in 2019. However, on defense the Gophers rank No. 125 in defensive returning production. That’s a tough spot to be in when you don’t have Spring practice to help fix some kinks.
Additionally, the Gophers lost offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarocca to Penn State, so it’s safe to say we’ll see how great of a coach Fleck is next fall. The Badgers appear to be in a much more favorable spot, so I’d maybe take an early flyer on Wisconsin in this one due to the lack of returning production for Minnesota, and the fact that they have to come to Madison this time around.
November 28th, 2020: Wisconsin (-2.5) @ Iowa
In the Badgers regular season finale Wisconsin will travel to Iowa City for a potential Big Ten West Title championship game of sorts. Gone is our lovable Nate Stanley, who never beat the Badgers, and in steps Spencer Petras. If Petras can deliver the ball, the Hawkeyes could have a strong passing game with a talented group of wideouts returning. Couple that with Sam LaPorta at tight end, and things start to take shape on offense. On defense, A.J. Epenesa is gone, as is Kristian Welch at linebacker. Still, Iowa always manages to find playermakers on that side of the ball.
Right now the number is 2.5, so it’s a favorable one to jump on if you like it as you get a key number under a field goal. Still though, this game is 246 days away. Not only do we have a pandemic to get through, but then we’ve got summer, and an entire football season before this one kicks off. Injuries and changes happen.
Does that mean you shouldn’t bet it? Of course not! I’d look at Wisconsin with the favorable line, but don’t come crying to me if you lose a bet you made based on a hunch 246 days from now. I don’t even know what I am doing tomorrow, let alone in late November.