UNLV REBELS (0-0)
at WISCONSIN BADGERS (0-0)
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Wisconsin -35, Total: 55
The Wisconsin Badgers expect to start the season with a big win when they host UNLV on Thursday night. Wisconsin is coming off an 11-2 season, while the Rebels finished 2-11 last year. These two clubs also matched up in last year’s opener at UNLV, where the Rebels only trailed by three points at halftime before the Badgers pulled away in the third quarter and won 41-21.
This year’s Wisconsin offense could be even better than the 2010 version, which posted three 70-point games and finished fifth in the nation in scoring at 41.5 PPG. The new QB is NC State transfer Russell Wilson, who has averaged 267 total yards per game in his career. But the focal point of the offense is the RB duo of James White and Montee Ball who combined for 32 rushing TD in 2010. UNLV had the fifth-worst rushing defense among FBS teams last year (223 rush YPG), including 278 to Wisconsin. The Rebels offense was even worse, ranking third-to-last in the nation in yards with 274 YPG. Considering UNLV is 0-10 ATS as a road underdog in the past three seasons, expect WISCONSIN to cover the huge spread.
The FoxSheets provide another reason to bet on the Badgers.
UNLV is 4-15 ATS (21.1%, -12.5 Units) in road games in games played on turf since 1992. The average score was UNLV 19.6, OPPONENT 35.6 - (Rating = 1*).
The Rebels will be led this year by sophomore QB Caleb Herring, who saw limited duty as a freshman (28-for-56, 365 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT). Herring is now operating behind an offensive line that lost three starters. However, he does have some experienced skill-position players to work with. Senior WR Phillip Payne gained 71 of UNLV’s 105 receiving yards versus Wisconsin last year and finished the season with a team-high 689 yards. RB Tim Cornett had six of UNLV’s nine rushing TD last year, while gaining 546 yards on the ground. The strength of the defense lies with cover corners Will Chandler and Quinton Pointer.
Wilson figures to have plenty of time to make decisions on Thursday, as UNLV had a paltry 12 total sacks last year. His top target will be senior WR Nick Toon, who is coming off a disappointing year, catching just 36 passes and three touchdowns. But there was nothing lackluster about White and Ball who combined for 2,048 rushing yards on 6.4 yards per carry. The Badgers defense will miss stud DE J.J. Watt, but they have two great outside linebackers in Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, who missed the majority of last year with a shoulder injury.