There’s no sense in beating around the bush. I’ll get right to the point by saying that I believe there’s a ton of value surrounding the intriguing Week 1 matchup between the LSU Tigers and Wisconsin Badgers.
LSU nearly parted ways with longtime head coach Les Miles after underachieving in a big way in 2015. Wisconsin managed to record another double-digit win season a year ago in Paul Chryst’s first season leading his beloved alma mater.
Now, let’s find out which team is offering the most value for their respective NCAA football odds in this matchup of playoff hopefuls.
Where’s The Value In Week 1 Matchup Between Tigers and Badgers?
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay WI
When: Sat, Sep 3, 2016 at 3:30 PM ET
NCAAF Odds: LSU -10 / Over/Under: 44.5
Bet The LSU Tigers at -10 Because…
The LSU Tigers have a ton of elite talent, one of the best running backs in all of college football and sense of desperation after underachieving a year ago. LSU (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) was solid on offense in 2015, ranking 39th nationally in total offense (437.9 ypg) and a respectable 44th in scoring (32.8 ppg) thanks mostly to their seventh-ranked rushing attack (258.0 ypg).
LSU will once again lean heavily on Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette after the bruising big back rushed for a stellar 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2015. Ultimately though, I think LSU’s success in 2016 will come down to the play they get out of quarterback Brandon Harris that will determine just how far the Tigers go this coming season.
Harris was mediocre at best in 2015 by completing a discouraging 53.8 percent of his passes while throwing an unacceptable13 TD passes and six interceptions. The Tigers could also have question marks on the offensive line as they replace departed starting tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins. Still, with nine returning starters on offense, I say, all excuses are out the window for the LSU offense in 2016.
Defensively, LSU will have a new defense for the third straight season under new coordinator Dave Aranda takes over a unit that ranked an impressive 25th in total defense (347.1 ypg) and respectable 41st in points allowed (24.2 ppg). The Tigers need to find replacements for star defensive back Jaylen Mills and stud linebacker Deion Jones, but has another budding star in All-SEC safety Jamal Adams.
Bet The Wisconsin Badgers at +10 Because…
The Wisconsin Badgers have enough talent to win, a chip on their shoulders and will be playing in front of some psyched-out fans at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Wisconsin (10-3 SU, 6-7 ATS) returns seven starters on both sides of the ball in 2016, but needs to find a new starting quarterback to replace graduated former starter Joel Stave.
The good news is that the Badgers will have gifted senior running back Corey Clement back on the field after the heir apparent to Melvin Gordon missed virtually all of his junior season in 2015 with a variety of injuries including a sports hernia after racking up over 900 yards behind Gordon as a sophomore two years ago. Clement will be a big part of Wisconsin’s offensive attack this coming season after the Badgers fell all the way to 95th in rushing last season while posting their lowest rushing total in two decades.
Clement will share some of the carries with talented fellow backs Dare Ogunbowale, Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw in what could be one of the best backfields in the nation this coming season. As for the quarterback spot, senior Bart Houston will replace Stave, but the Badgers need someone to step into the No. 1 wide receiver role to replace graduated former star Alex Erickson, who had 77 catches for 978 yards last season.
Defensively, the Badgers need to replace a pair of stud stars in linebacker Joe Schobert and safety Michael Caputo. Schobert led the Badgers with 9.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss, while Caputo simply made plays all over the field for Wisconsin last season. Still the Badgers look solid with their front seven and have plenty of experience at cornerback, although the safety position is a question mark as they break in two new starters.
Expert Pick & Final Score Prediction
For me, I believe the value in this Week 1 opener firmly lies with a Wisconsin team that I believe is underrated and being overlooked again, much like they were last season when they won 10 games. LSU’s Leonard Fournette will headline this intriguing Week 1 pairing, but I like the Wisconsin Badgers to cover the college football betting line by getting the outright win no less.
I’ve said it several times this offseason and I’ll say it again. Unless I see a different Brandon Harris from the one I saw under center for LSU last season, I just can’t put much faith in the Tigers. Yes, the Tigers could challenge for a berth in the four-team College Football Playoff, but again, if Harris isn’t able to pass the ball efficiently then LSU will be the same one-dimensional team they were a year ago.
Wisconsin has won eight of their last 10 home games and suffered their only two home losses during that stretch by just six and four points respectively. I know the Badgers are just 1-4 ATS in their last five games against teams from the SEC, but I think the fact that this game is being played at Lambeau Field will provide the Badgers with an extra boost that will ultimately carry them to victory. Even if Wisconsin does fall in this opener, I certainly don’t think it will be by 11 points. Back the Wisconsin Badgers to cover the college football betting line as an insane 10-point home dog against an LSU team they match up very well against!