Washington State vs. Wisconsin Odds, Picks: Battle of Pace Favors Badgers on Saturday
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Graham Mertz (Wisconsin)
- Washington State travels to Madison to take on Wisconsin in an intriguing college football Week 2 battle.
- The Cougars are in the first year of the Jake Dickert era, but they have some sizzle with Cameron Ward at QB.
- Is that enough against the Badgers? What are we targeting from a betting perspective? Dan Keegan has you covered.
Washington State vs. Wisconsin Odds
We head to the land of cheese curds for a matchup between two FBS programs. This is only the third-ever meeting between these two schools, and this game holds a lot of intrigue.
Washington State is attempting to establish its program under new head coach Jake Dickert.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has one of the strongest football identities in the sport.
Both teams are coming off of wins against FCS programs in their home openers, although the Badgers easily dispatched Illinois while the Cougars struggled with Idaho.
Wisconsin is favored by a sizable margin (-17.5), but can Washington State find some matchups that will allow it to cover?
Dickert is tasked with a shift in philosophy in the Palouse. Mike Leach and Nick Rolovich were known for their offensive systems, but Dickert is a defensive mind.
In order to shift away from Rolovich’s Run-N-Shoot, Dickert brought in Incarnate Word head coach Eric Morris as his new offensive coordinator.
Morris is the architect of a dynamic Air Raid offense, although it is one that utilizes tight ends and the running game a little more than Leach’s traditional Air Raid.
Cameron Ward, Morris’ dynamic signal-caller, tagged along to Pullman. Ward was a prolific passer at the FCS level and has received a ton of hype in his transition into FBS ball.
Ward and company were underwhelming in their debut against the Idaho Vandals. Ward did account for all three touchdowns in the 24-17 victory, but his offense had only a 50% Success Rate and an 8% Explosive Play Rate.
Ward was pressured 13 times by an FCS opponent, a bad sign before facing Jim Leonhard’s Wisconsin defense. Expect star rusher Nick Herbig to be key in getting pressure on Ward.
Ward hardly challenged the Vandals’ defense deep, with only a 6.5 ADOT. Wide receiver was a position of concern heading into the season for the Cougars, and they appear to be without a game breaker at the position.
Despite the ho-hum results from the offense against Idaho, the Cougars defense did exactly what it needed to on Saturday. Dickert’s defense was 40th in Bill Connelly’s preseason SP+, thanks to a strong front four anchored by stud edge rushers Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr.
Even with a limited Stone — he is expected to be a full-go on Saturday — the Cougars notched seven sacks and held Idaho to 4.28 yards per play.
While the offense is remodeling, the Cougars’ defense is solid with returning stars and Dickert’s leadership.
Wisconsin consistently sports a top-10 defense and will present a significant challenge for the Cougars.
Even without 2021 star linebackers Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal, the Badgers will be stout as Leonard’s unit is one of the most consistent in college football.
Yes, it was against FCS Illinois State, but Wisconsin showed its strengths. The Badgers shutout the Redbirds, created two turnovers and 10 Havoc plays, and allowed only -0.40 EPA/Play. It was the dominant showing you want against an FCS team.
On offense, you know star running back Braelon Allen, as he is one of the sport’s premiere players. The hope for the Badgers was that the emergence of slot receiver Chimere Dike would push the offense into new heights.
Dike was a star in fall camp, has developed good chemistry with quarterback Graham Mertz and adds an explosive pass wrinkle to the offense. In Week 1, he caught three balls for 105 yards and a score.
Unfortunately for Dike, he’ll be matched-up with Armani Marsh, Washington State’s best defensive back. Marsh played 310 coverage snaps in the slot last year and allowed an NFL passer rating of 68.8 on those plays. The fifth-year senior should be able to take away Wisconsin’s new weapon.
Washington State vs. Wisconsin Betting Pick
Washington State’s offense is full of season-long potential and the athleticism of Ward hints at great things to come. However, life will be difficult in Madison on Saturday, as this new offense still tries to find its rhythm.
Wisconsin will look to control and run the ball. Allen will have success on the ground, but the Mertz-Dike connection will not pay off in this matchup and open up the offense.
The structural identity of Wisconsin will carry the day, and I expect the Badgers to win comfortably. I don’t love the large spread, as -17.5 just screams “backdoor” to me.
I don’t see seven touchdowns in this game and will play the under. It currently sits at 49.5, and I would play it up to the key number of 51.