The Wisconsin Badgers are not used to starting the year against such a tough opponent and will put their 16-game winning streak in season openers on the line when they face the LSU Tigers at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Wisconsin began last season at home against UMass and barely covered the spread in a 45-0 rout. This year, the Badgers open as rare underdogs, a role that not been kind to Wisconsin bettors.
Point spread: LSU opened as 6.5-point favorites, but it had been bet down to five points by Thursday; the total was 50 at NRG Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
Odds Shark computer prediction: 42.3-37.9 Badgers
Why the Wisconsin Badgers can cover the spread
The Tigers are coming off a win against another Big Ten team, topping Iowa 21-14 in the Outback Bowl. However, the Tigers just missed covering the spread against the Hawkeyes and failed to beat the line in five of their last six games to end last season despite winning four of five straight up, including the bowl victory.
LSU comes into this game as the No. 13 team in the AP Top 25 poll, but Wisconsin sits just one spot behind at No. 14 and figures to be extra motivated now that the injury to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has left the Big Ten wide open.
Wisconsin has a real opportunity here to make a big statement as a serious national title contender on national television. Running back Melvin Gordon also gets a chance to polish his Heisman resume, as he currently sits as a 12-1 bet to win the award.
Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread
Wisconsin was favored by more than 40 points in each of its first two games last season, so to say this game at LSU is a huge step up in competition is a massive understatement. The same can’t be said for the Tigers, who beat TCU 37-27 in last year’s season opener as four-point favorites and routed Oregon 40-27 in their first game three years ago as three-point underdogs.
To make matters worse for the Badgers, they start 2014 trying to end a two-game skid both straight up and against the spread despite being favorites in both, including a 34-24 loss in the Capital One Bowl to another SEC team in South Carolina. LSU has the talent necessary to extend that slump for Wisconsin here. It will also extend the 2-14 SU slump when the Badgers get points on the road.
Just about any SEC vs. Big Ten battle tends to favor the former, and this one is no different. Both teams have new starting QBs—junior Tanner McEvoy for the Badgers and a player yet to be named for the Tigers, either sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris—and both have strong running games.
But LSU’s talent pool is just too deep, giving the Tigers a significant edge to pull away late in the game for the SU and ATS win. Also remember the name Leonard Fournette, the highly rated LSU RB who could make this his coming-out party for a Heisman Trophy chase.
- Wisconsin is 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games
- LSU is 1-5 ATS in its last six games
- Badgers just 2-12 SU as road dogs since 2005
- LSU played over in eight of past nine openers
Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.