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Wisconsin vs. Army betting preview

How should you bet this ol’ fashioned rock fight?

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Last week Wisconsin’s contest went about how I expected it to and in turn the Badgers were able to cover as double-digit favorites and the under cashed without much of a sweat. That means we cashed a nice 2-0 spot on the week.

This week, Wisconsin once again enters as double-digit favorites against the Army Black Knights. The spread for this game opened with Wisconsin as a 10.5 point favorite but the line has already risen to Wisconsin -13.

The over/under for this contest sits at 39, which is the lowest point total oddsmakers have put out so far this 2021 season. Even Air Force and Navy, two triple-option teams, came in at 39.5. We’ll dive into both of these numbers, but first, some notable trends.

  • Wisconsin is 16-22-1 ATS as a home favorite under Paul Chryst
  • Wisconsin is 14-9 ATS in non-conference games under Paul Chryst
  • Army is 22-19 ATS as a road underdog under Jeff Monken
  • Army is 17-18 ATS on the road under Jeff Monken

ATS Pick: Army (+13)

If you bet on college football you’ll often see the word “trends” thrown out a lot. Example, right above you. Some people look into them a lot, some people ignore them completely. They don’t tell you the whole story, but some do give you some info. A couple of trends that I stick to involve service academies. The first one is that you generally should bet with service academies as underdogs and fade them as favorites.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2005 service academies are 136-122-6 ATS as an underdog (52%, data not including 2021). On the flipside, service academies are 130-158-5 (45%) as a favorite. Generally, they are able to cover as underdogs because the clock is running at a more torrent pace than when other teams meet which makes for limited possessions and limited chances to cover a spread.

Another trend worth backing is the Road Underdog with Low Totals trend. Low totals, like the one we’ll see Saturday at 39, generally benefit the underdog because when fewer points are expected to be scored than that leads to tight games. If the total is 45 points or less the road underdog covers the spread 54.6% of the time (since 2005). With these two trends in play, it’s hard to side with anything other than Army getting the points in this matchup.

Over/Under? Over 39.5

From a totals perspective, this game is incredibly interesting. Another trend that you should certainly follow is betting the under in games between two service academies. Since 2005, the under has cashed 79% of the time when two service academies meet. It’s the most profitable trend in college football. Why does that happen? Well, the familiarity between the two sides almost always wins out and with little passing action the clock melts off the scoreboard.

Wisconsin is not a service academy, but they do run the ball nearly as much. Currently, Army ranks first in time of possession and Wisconsin ranks fourth. Both teams will hold the football for long drives which is conducive to the under, but some other factors make me lean over in this contest.

The first factor is the point of familiarity that I mentioned above. The reason these games between service academies go under is because they know what the other offense is going to do. They go against it in practice every day. That cannot be said for this matchup.

Wisconsin has not faced a triple-option attack since 1979, so familiarity is not at all there for this defense. The Badger defense has been great, but this is a whole new challenge, so I do expect points to be scored by Army on that alone.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The second factor is turnovers. In a game with just 39 points, a short field off a turnover is a death sentence to your bet most times. Wisconsin has not done great in hanging onto the ball, and the Badger defense could be able to force some fumbles going against an option team. When its being pitched around you are susceptible to balls hitting the turf.

Lastly, Wisconsin does have the ability to pass it around more than option teams. It has not been pretty, but the Badgers do possess the ability to do it in some capacity. Generally speaking, service academies have weaker secondaries to exploit since they do not recruit in the same capacity and do not go against the pass much in practice.

I am not saying Wisconsin will throw it all over the yard, but they have the ability to use the pass more to score points. I don’t like that the over is a very public side (97% of the reported bets) but for me, there are too many factors in play with such a low number.