'10 12-5 .704
'11 12-6 .667
'12 10-6 .625
34-17 .667 ATS
So without further ado, let's get right to it!
(23)Wisconsin -44.5 over Massachusetts:
Coming into the 2013 season ranked 23rd, Wisconsin who finished 8-6 overall last season know that when it comes to QB competition that game 1 almost certainly promises to be nothing more than an early tune-up against that of Massachusetts. The Minutemen finished 1-11 in 2012 and are in the precarious position of facing more tough opponents outside the MAC especially in the early going.
This season the battle for the Badgers will be between Joel Stave and Curt Phillips which head coach Gary Andersen will be witnessing in Saturday's opener. Andersen is making his debut on the Wisconsin sideline after being hired last December to replace Bret Bielema, who left for Arkansas. The Camp Randall faithful will look forward to seeing a dominant display of defense and even more-so heading into Big Ten conference play. Despite Wisconsin losing Montee Ball and his NCAA record 83 TD's, the mix of James White and Melvin Gordon will blend nicely as capable replacements. White ran for 806 yards and 12 scores in 2012 while Gordon notched 621 yards and 3 trips to the end zone.
Stave threw for over 1100 yards last season but suffered a broken clavicle injury that ended his season against Michigan State. While a tough loss having a conference leading passer rating of 150, Phillips played the final 5 games but threw for an average of only 77 yards per start. During that stretch Wisconsin relied a lot more heavily on the run and even had a few trick plays up their sleeve utilizing some of the up backs and relied on their speed and blocking up front. Jared Abbrederis (49-837 5 TD) led the Badger receiving core and figures to eclipse last season's stats if he can stay healthy and run some favorable routes past opposing secondaries.
Defensively the front seven is stacked with 6 starters making their return led by Derick Landisch and Ethan Armstrong. Chris Borland, who recorded a team high 104 tackles has forced 13 career fumbles and is one shy of tying the major college record shared by five other players. Don’t be surprised if he makes history Saturday. Andersen who coached the Utah St Aggies last season lead his team to the 7th best scoring defense. That doesn't bode well for UMass, who despite returning 7 starters on their defense gave up well over 40 ppg.
The miniscule Minutemen proved to be nothing but overmatched stomping grounds for the more fiercer competition and making the transition was difficult after going 16-17 at the FCS level over a 3 year period. UMass was shut out three times, and all but one of their losses were by double-digit margins. Their lone victory came at Akron in November, who also finished with a 1-11 record. That being said, the only way to go is up in Charley Molnar's second season. Quarterback Mike Wegzyn struggled in the passing game last year as a redshirt freshman (52.6 percent, six TDs, 10INTs) and will need to step up his efficiency metrics. His lone weapon is senior tight end Rob Branchflower, who was second on the team with43 catches for 464 yards, with more than half of that yardage coming over the final four games.
Michael Cox was drafted by the New York Giants, leaving Wegzyn (141 yards) as the top returning rusher. Adding to the overall uncertainty surrounding the offense is the fact that senior tackle Anthony Dima (6-7, 302) is the only returnee from an offensive line that was regularly overmatched last season. The UMass defense endured similar struggles in 2012, yielding averages of 40.2
points and 458.8 yards per game. Making matters worse, leading tacklers Perry McIntyre (132 tackles) and Darren Thellen (78 tackles) have both moved on.
If you love lopsided matchups, you've come to the right place. This pick nor write-up may not be for those who are afraid or won't grab their balls when large double digit lines indicate and define mismatches. Wisconsin could name their score on Saturday, as they won't look past a Minutemen team to open their season on the road to a 4th straight Rose Bowl performance. If taking the points looks inviting, I pity those taking a punishment where the dogs won't be called off until at the earliest the 4th quarter. Best of luck however you play!