Wisconsin vs. Washington State Odds, Picks | Badgers to Cover?
Wisconsin vs. Washington State Odds
Last season, we saw the Washington State Cougars travel to Madison and take down the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 17-14. This upset came with Wisconsin as a 17.5-point favorite.
But now, just a year later, Wisconsin is only favored by six as it comes to Pullman.
With a new-look offense in tow, can Luke Fickell win his road debut with his new team, or will Jake Dickert get the best of the Badgers yet again?
Here's my breakdown and best bets for Wisconsin vs. Washington State.
When Fickell came to Wisconsin from Cincinnati, he brought in Phil Longo as his offensive coordinator. This was an interesting move, as Longo’s background is in high-scoring passing offenses, and Wisconsin has historically run the exact opposite of that.
With the addition of Tanner Mordecai from SMU, the Badgers were truly signaling the beginning of a new era for Wisconsin football.
What we saw in Week 1 against Buffalo was quite different from this reality, however.
Mordecai struggled through the air, averaging -0.28 EPA per play and throwing a pair of interceptions. Buffalo’s passing defense wasn’t a strength last year, so this is more likely a by-product of Wisconsin adapting to the new scheme.
Wisconsin ran the ball on 55% of its plays, which almost exactly matches the 55.56% rate that it put up in 2022. This may have been largely due to game script, as the Badgers held a strong lead over Buffalo for much of the game. They were reliant on running back Braelon Allen from the first snap.
The Wisconsin offense was humming to the tune of a 62nd-percentile Success Rate and 58th-percentile EPA per play. This was largely due to the rushing attack, though, which had a 92nd-percentile EPA per rush compared to a 20th-percentile output on their drop backs.
A season ago, Wisconsin was stout against the run, ranking 10th in Success Rate and sixth in Rushing PPA Allowed, but struggled through the air.
Against the pass, they were just 52nd in PPA Allowed and 51st in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig are both big losses in the front seven, but eight starters do return to this Wisconsin defense. Mike Tressel follows Fickell over from Cincinnati, where he has done a solid job as defensive coordinator the last two years.
While those two departures may loom large, the Wisconsin defense should be a tough force to reckon with once again.
Seven starters return to this Cougars offense that ranked 72nd in Success Rate and 56th in Finishing Drives last year. They passed at the second-highest rate in the country, a trend that will likely continue under new OC Ben Arbuckle.
Arbuckle’s success with offensive explosiveness should be noted, as that was a deficiency for Wazzu last year. They ranked 68th in Passing Ruccess Rate, but were just 128th in Passing Explosiveness. Arbuckle’s Western Kentucky offense led the nation in 20+-yard plays in 2022.
The Cougars had a 91st-percentile Success Rate and 62nd-percentile yards per play against the Rams last week, while holding them to a 40th-percentile Success Rate and 24th-percentile EPA per play. While the efficiency was still there for Washington State’s offense, the explosiveness it seeks has still not arrived.
The Washington State defense last year was a mixed bag. It ranked 46th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 50th in Passing PPA Allowed. However, the Cougars couldn't stop the run, as they ranked 112th in Rushing Success Rate and 81st in Rushing PPA.
While these numbers aren’t overly impressive on the surface-level, the Pac 12 was the home of many of the best offenses in college football last season.
This year, the Cougars return only five starters from last year’s defense and will likely take a step back from their ranking as the 22nd-best defense in SP+.
Wisconsin vs Washington State
Betting Pick & Prediction
While both teams deal with coordinator changes, Washington State appears to have the most natural transition. However, I do think that this Wazzu offense is likely not too improved from last year at this point of the season.
On the other side, the dynamic backfield tandem for Wisconsin should have a strong game, but Mordecai will be key for Wisconsin’s offense. In my opinion, this large scheme transition will take some time, so I don’t expect this offense to hit its full potential in Week 2.
The Wisconsin running game is where this battle will be won. Allen and Chez Mellusi pilot one of the most deadly backfields in the country. As we saw them do last weekend, I think that the Badgers will be able to move the ball on the ground through the middle of this Cougars defense.
The line has already moved up throughout the week, but I would still take Wisconsin at -6. I like the Badgers to take care of business on the road here, avenging their loss from 2022.
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