Buffalo vs Wisconsin Odds & Prediction: Bet Badgers to Cruise
Pictured: Braelon Allen (Getty Images)
Buffalo vs Wisconsin Odds
The Luke Fickell era of Wisconsin football kicks off Saturday afternoon when the Badgers host the Buffalo Bulls in Week 1.
After a 6-6 regular season that saw head coach Paul Chryst get fired, the new-look Badgers enter 2023 with a new head coach, a new starting quarterback in Tanner Mordecai and a new offensive coordinator in Phil Longo.
There's a buzz around the Badgers, but first, No. 19 Wisconsin will have to get past the Bulls out of the Mid-American Conference.
Let’s dive into this Week 1 matchup.
Buffalo improved to 7-6 last season and capped off the year with a Camellia Bowl win over Georgia Southern. It appears things are heading in the right direction as head coach Maurice Linguist enters his third year at the helm, but those improvements may not be evident in Camp Randall.
Even though the Bulls' 6-6 regular season was admirable, it included a loss to FCS Holy Cross and a one-point win over lowly Akron. This isn’t exactly the best of the best from the MAC.
Buffalo has some stability in the backfield, with starting quarterback Cole Snyder and leading rusher Mike Washington Jr. both returning. Snyder was regarded as one of the better quarterbacks in the MAC last season when he threw for 3,030 yards and 18 touchdowns.
That provides a good starting point for new Bulls offensive coordinator DJ Mangas. However, Buffalo's three leading receivers from last year left the program, so it'll be integrating new pass catchers against Wisconsin.
The Bulls' defense finished 55th in defensive EPA, which is respectable, but it primarily came against MAC competition. Those MAC teams don't have Wisconsin's enormous offensive line, and with only two defensive linemen weighing at least 300 pounds, Buffalo might have problems defending the line of scrimmage.
These aren’t your older brother’s Badgers. Wisconsin committed to an offensive identity change when it fired Chryst and brought in Fickell and Longo. The Badgers will still focus on the run game in Longo’s Air Raid offense, but it won’t be a ground-and-pound attack that leads to nine-man boxes.
Of course, you can plan to air it out all you want, but it all falls apart without an effective quarterback. Well, Wisconsin should be covered on that front with Mordecai in the fold. The redshirt senior tore it up at SMU last season when he completed 65% of his passes for 3,524 yards and 33 touchdowns.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for Mordecai to adjust to his new team since he ran a similar spread offense at SMU.
It remains to be seen how well Mordecai executes Longo’s offense, but there should be some wiggle room for mistakes against the Bulls.
And there's always the option of running it with Braelon Allen, who has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
Wisconsin’s defense should be able to hold up its end of the bargain, as well. The Badgers' defense gave up 20.2 points per game in 2022 — good for 17th-best in the country — and that includes the 50-burger given up to Ohio State.
Wisconsin only gave up one touchdown in its non-conference wins over Illinois State and New Mexico State last year, so expect it to similarly suffocate the Bulls.
Buffalo vs Wisconsin
Betting Pick & Prediction
Fickell has his first chance to get a win as Wisconsin's head coach, and the betting markets seem to think he'll be successful. Wisconsin was only favored by 23 points when Week 1 lines first came out in June, but it's shot up 4.5 points throughout the summer and is now -27.5.
Wisconsin's offensive approach is another thing to consider when betting this game. The Badgers will want to hit the ground running so they can work out the offensive kinks before a road trip to play Washington State in Week 2, especially after losing to the Cougars in Madison last year.
Even if Fickell and Longo save some of the more creative plays for Wazzu, Wisconsin still has to run its basic Air Raid plays to get players acclimated to the new system. That should be difficult for Buffalo to stop.
Fickell also doesn't mess around in these early-season games. His Cincinnati teams typically walloped the lower-tier non-conference teams it faced to start the season, so he should be able to kick off his Wisconsin tenure with a similar type of blowout.
Look for Fickell and Mordecai to start out hot in Madison. Action Analytics is also on the Badgers, favoring Wisconsin by 30.8 points in this matchup.
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