Location: Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI
Game Time: 9 PM ET, Friday, August 31st
How To Watch: ESPN and WatchESPN
Betting Line: -36.5 Wisconsin, O/U 52
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won 24-6 on September 29th, 2001
Mike Sanford said it best in his presser this week: for WKU, this game is about playing with pride and setting a precedent for the rest of the year. Starting off the season against the fourth-ranked team in the nation is a daunting task. Wisconsin counter the Tops’ youth with experience in most departments, particularly up front, where the Badgers return all five offensive line starters from last year.
Paul Chryst returns as the Badger head coach for his fourth season. Even prior to Chryst’s tenure, however, Wisconsin have traditionally had no issue dealing with home opener and non-conference home games in general. UW has won each of their home openers since 1996 and have won 19 straight non-conference home games. Most recently, their offensive success can be traced back to the offensive line that I mentioned and running back Jonathan Taylor, who broke the FBS record for rushing yards by a freshman (1,977) last season, and quarterback Alex Hornibrook who threw 25 touchdown passes last season.
Meanwhile, the Tops will be looking to an inexperienced offense with Drew Eckels set to make the start at cornerback behind what was, objectively, the worst offensive line in FBS last season. Defensively, the WKU secondary led by DeAndre Farris and Devon Key could give Hornibrook a few problems. But it will be on the shoulders of WKU’s defensive line to stuff the run and block Taylor’s success if the Tops want to have a shot in this game.
Sorry to say it, but this isn’t going to be pretty. Wisconsin being favored by 36.5 is justified when you have the talent and experience that they do. In the trenches, I expect the Badgers’ All-American line to open up holes all night for Taylor and give Hornibrook the time he needs to make plays against a defensive line that ha only 12 sacks in 2017.
Hopefully, this proves to be a useful learning experience for WKU and we see some of the younger guys get some time (particularly at quarterback) and major injuries are avoided.
Wisconsin wins this one 48-10.