Disappointing Wisconsin hopes to gain some momentum in its last non-conference tune up at home against UTEP before opening Big Ten play at Nebraska on September 29th. To say the Badgers’ play has been underwhelming so far this season is an understatement. After nearly blowing a 19 point lead in week one against FCN opponent Northern Iowa, Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and needed a last second field goal miss by Utah State to survive in week three. Wisconsin quarterback Danny O’Brien was benched in the second half against the Aggies in favor of redshirt freshman Joel Stave who was as equally ineffective.
UTEP started the season with a fantastic effort at home against perennial power Oklahoma. Following a tough loss at Mississippi, the Miners got their first win a week ago at home against New Mexico State, 41-28.
What will happen: Wisconsin desperately needs a confidence boost before heading into the Big Ten season. Per usual, the Badgers will pound the ball behind a mammoth yet unimpressive offensive line. Badgers running back Montee Ball has rushed for 320 yards so far but is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. UTEP’s defense has had trouble stopping the big play, giving up deep touchdown passes in all three games, but Wisconsin’s offense lacks playmakers at the wide receiver position needed to exploit the Miners’ biggest weakness.
Mike Price is known as an offensive guru and UTEP’s offense is averaging 351 yards and 19.3 points per game. Quarterback Nick Lamaison has been effective so far, completing 54% of his passes with 5 TDs and no interceptions on the year. Unbelievably, Wisconsin is the only FBS school that has yet to force a turnover. With an offense struggling to put up big numbers against poor competition, expect UTEP to score enough points to keep it close.
Wisconsin opened as 16 point favorites and the line has jumped to 18. Assuming the UTEP can put 14 points on the board, Wisconsin will need to score anywhere from 31-35 points to cover. Given the anemic performances by the Badger offense so far, combined with the possibility of starting a redshirt freshman QB (Stave) and a visit to Lincoln, Nebraska looming in the following week, look for a close game with Wisconsin trying to control the time of possession in a low scoring affair.
Prediction: Wisconsin 23-13
Play: UTEP +18
I recommend betting on this game at Bovada.lv. If you aren’t from the USA then Bodog.eu is your best option. There are plenty of College Football predictions on the site this week so don’t forget to check them all out.
Written by: Ben Zimmer