No.4 Wisconsin is a heavy favorite (-35.5) to claim its 40th consecutive win over a non-conference opponent at Camp Randall Stadium, the fifth longest streak by any FBS team in the modern era. Western Kentucky, meanwhile, is seeking just its fourth outright victory as a double-digit underdog since 2008, last stunning Marshall 67-66 as a 23-point pup in a thrilling 2014 overtime contest.
Western Kentucky at No.4 Wisconsin (-35.5)
Opening Line: -32.5, Badgers
Opening Total: 51
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison WI
Nearly 70 percent of against-the-spread bets across the top online sportsbooks are backing the Badgers to cover a 35.5-point spread as of August 27. The number is up a full field goal following a 32.5 opener. The total, meanwhile, remains unchanged from a 51.0 initial offer.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
2017 SU Record: 6-7
2017 ATS Record: 4-9
2017 Avg. Line: -5.7
Senior quarterback Drew Eckels, who has attempted just 24 collegiate passes in his career, leads a gutted Western Kentucky offense that returns just three starters. The unit can’t script a tougher test to begin the 2018 campaign. Wisconsin is holding opponents to a paltry 240.1 yards per game at Camp Randall Stadium over the last five years, the best rate of any FBS program in the country.
Past betting market results suggest putting up anything greater than a solid baseball score will be challenging. The Hilltoppers have kicked off 30-point underdogs four times since 2009: at Tennessee (2009, +30.5), at Nebraska (2010, +38.5), at LSU (2011, +42), and at Alabama (2012, +38). They scored 7, 10, 9, and 0 points respectively, while allowing a 47.2 average.
The only way Western Kentucky can make this lopsided matchup the slightest bit interesting is with a strong defensive performance. The unit returns seven first-team regulars, but its 4-2-5 base scheme does not match up well against arguably the nation’s top rushing attack.
No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers
2017 SU Record: 13-1
2017 ATS Record: 9-5
2017 Avg. Line: -16.2
Paul Chryst, the back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year, rolls out one of the most talented and experienced offenses in the country. Sophomore RB Jonathan Taylor, who topped Adrian Peterson’s FBS record for most rushing yards by a freshman (1,977) last season, is the go-to. Taylor is third choice to win the Heisman Trophy Award at +850 odds, earning sixth place last season.
The entire offensive line is back as well, which includes an unprecedented four All-Americans: RG Beau Benzschawel, LG Michael Deiter, RT David Edwards, and C Tyler Biadasz.
QB Alex Homibrook, the reigning Orange Bowl MVP, enters his third season guiding the unit. The Badgers average 31.4 points per game with the junior under center.
The defense is forced to replace seven starters, but there’s little cause for concern in Madison. The unit is Wisconsin’s bread-and-butter and should have zero issues stuffing a much undersized and slower C-USA offense.
Pick: UNDER 51
Western Kentucky will be lucky to score a touchdown. Chryst will show restraint late in a blowout win and wind down the offense. In four home games laying 30 points or more, the Badgers average 14.75 second-half points under the fourth-year leader. Projected Score: 37-7