The Wisconsin Badgers won double-digit games in 2015. But oddsmakers don't expect similar success this season as UW has a wins total of 7.5 on college football odds.
Recapping Wisconsin's 2015 Season
Probably no Power 5 school has had more coaching turnover of late than Wisconsin Badgers (+7500 to win College Football National Championship at Bovada). By that I mean, turnover not of the school's own doing. UW loved Bret Bielema, but he shocked everyone by leaving for Arkansas after the 2012 season. He was replaced by Utah State's Gary Andersen. He helped lead the Badgers to a 10-3 regular-season record in 2014 and spot in the Big Ten title game. But Andersen stunned everyone by then leaving for Oregon State, which isn't as good of a job as Wisconsin.
So AD Barry Alvarez had to make another hire and for last season he went with Pitt head coach Paul Chryst. He also was a former offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Most notably, he was part of the Wisconsin staff from 2005-11, helping the Badgers to five double-digit victory seasons and two Rose Bowls. Alvarez actually would have liked to pursue Chryst when Bielema left, but Alvarez didn't think it was right to go after Chryst just one year after helping him get the Pitt job.
It was a pretty successful 2015 campaign for Chryst. Wisconsin lost its season opener to eventual national champion Alabama 35-17 in Arlington, Texas. No shame in that. The Badgers then won three straight before a tough 10-6 home loss to Iowa to open Big Ten play. Wisconsin, which turned the ball over four times, had a 10-game winning streak at Camp Randall Stadium snapped and lost for only the eighth time in its last 79 home games.
Wisconsin would rebound from that with five straight wins to stay in Big Ten West Division contention. Then came another tough home loss, 13-7 to No. 20 Northwestern. UW got to the Wildcats' 1-yard-line in the final minute but couldn't punch it in. It was Wisconsin's first home loss to Northwestern since 2000 and it ended any hopes UW had of winning the West Division. The Badgers closed the regular season with a 31-21 win at Minnesota and then a small upset over No. 25 USC in the Holiday Bowl, 23-21. Frankly, the Trojans were the only good team that UW beat all year.
Looking Ahead To 2016
The biggest question mark for Wisconsin is at quarterback as Joel Stave has finally moved on -- it really seemed like he was in college football for about eight years. Stave was one of the better QBs in school history. He won 31 games, the most at Wisconsin. He finished second in career yards passing (7,635) and touchdowns (48). Stave had 18 games of at least 200 yards passing, No. 1 in UW history. Now, to be fair, not many Wisconsin QBs put up huge numbers over the years because this program has been run-heavy forever.
Senior Bart Houston is expected to take over for Stave, although redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook is still in the mix heading into fall camp. Houston saw major action in one game last year, at Illinois with Stave leaving early in the first quarter due to injury. Houston was 27-for-33 for 232 yards and two scores in leading the 24-13 victory over the Illini. In his career, Houston has completed 29 of 51 passes (56.8 percent) for 295 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. No other QB on the roster has thrown a collegiate pass.
Overall, Wisconsin returns 11 starters, six on offense and five on defense, a unit that was one of the nation's best in 2015. This will again be a ground-and-pound team behind a massive offensive line and good running back depth led by Corey Clement. He was really good in 2014 as Melvin Gordon's backup, carrying 147 times for 949 yards and nine scores. Clement was touted as a Heisman candidate entering last year with Gordon gone, but Clement was plagued by injuries and managed only 48 carries.
As noted above, the Badgers have a wins total of 7.5 on college football odds. That might seem low for this team, but the schedule is a monster, probably the school's most difficult in years.
Wisconsin opens as a 9.5-point underdog against a loaded LSU team on Sept. 3 at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The next two non-conference games will be easy home wins. But in the Big Ten, UW has to play the three top teams from the East Division in defending Big Ten champion Michigan State (away on Sept. 24), Michigan (away on Oct. 1) and Ohio State (in Madison on Oct. 15). UW didn't have to play any of those clubs last year. The Wolverines and Buckeyes are likely to be preseason Top-10 teams nationally and MSU in the Top 15-20. Wisconsin also has to travel to reigning West Division champion Iowa and Northwestern.
The Badgers are +425 on college football picks to win the Big Ten West and +1400 for the conference title.
Free College Football Picks: 'Under' that win total and obviously no division title. I believe UW loses to LSU, at Michigan State, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Iowa to finish 7-5. Losses at home to Nebraska and at Northwestern wouldn't shock me, either.
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline