One of the most heavily anticipated non-conference matchups of the opening weekend of the 2014 college football season features two top 25 teams with the 14th ranked Wisconsin Badgers of the Big 10 squaring off against the 13th ranked LSU Tigers of the SEC in the 2014 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX (8:00pm CT). while LSU finished with an 8-3 record ranking 3rd in the SEC West division losing only to Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama.
The Badgers led by a new starter in junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who has excellent mobility, and dynamic running back Melvin Gordon (1,609 yards rushing, 12 TDs in 2013). The Badgers finished 2nd in the Big 10 in run defense a year ago with only 102.5 YPG allowed, but they lost their leading tackler in linebacker Chris Borland and most of their key front 7 players from their 3-4 base defensive alignment.
LSU will feature an abundance of youth at the offensive skill positions behind a dominating and experienced offensive line led by All-SEC left tackle La’el Collins. Senior running back Terrence Magee (626 rushing yards, 8 TDs in 2013) and highly-touted freshman Leonard Fournette will receive the bulk of the carries. Fournette is part of the number 2 ranked 2014 recruiting class, and is the number 1 player in that class and touted as the next Adrian Peterson with 4.3 speed and a 6 foot 1, 230 pound frame. It has not been announced who will start at quarterback as of this writing; with sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris, a dual threat QB, battling to replaced Zach Mettenberger. Jennings, pro-style QB, threw for 181 yards and 1 TD in a 21014 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl last season. Both QBs could see time Saturday.
Wisconsin vs. LSU Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Wisconsin Badgers +5
vs LSU Tigers -5
Over 49.5 (-110)
Under 49.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from BetOnline.ag
Wisconsin vs. LSU Pick:
LSU head Coach Les Miles has never lost to a non-conference opponent in the regular season during his 10 year tenure in Baton Rouge, a 45 game unbeaten streak. Wisconsin is also strong against non-conference opponents, with a 34-2 record over the last 10 years with the only losses coming to Oregon St. in 2012 and Arizona St. in 2013 with both games ending with controversial calls.
This game is an important one for both teams from the standpoint of securing a signature win over a ranked opponent to strengthen their case for making the inaugural four-team playoff field. Both teams will play a ball-control type of game and look to pound the ball on offense behind strong offensive lines and dynamic running backs. Both teams will have to replace most of their key defensive players from a season ago, with most of the departed starters in the front 7. LSU has an edge with two starters at corner, Tre’Daviosu White and Rashard Robinson returning from a unit that ranked 36th in total defense last season with 453 YPG allowed. LSU allowed 1,862 yards rushing and 15 TDs on the ground last season, and they lost two of their top run stuffers to the NFL. Look for Wisconsin to pound the ball with Gordon and run the option with McEvoy to change things up. Wisconsin needs this game more than LSU does, they have a weak schedule and must pick up a signature win here to have a chance at the 4 team playoff. Look for the Badgers to come out with a strong game plan and execute it with their more experienced personnel. Take Wisconsin here as LSU’s impressive streak under Miles comes to an end.