Wisconsin won their division in the Big Ten but then lost a coach they thought would stick around. Alabama has one of the two best coaches in college football, along with Urban Meyer. Two teams face uncertain positions, but they have different levels of coaching and different reputations as well.
The Wisconsin Badgers entered the Big Ten Championship Game with high hopes last season. Ohio State, after all, was playing a new quarterback named Cardale Jones. He had no previous experience as a collegiate starter. Wisconsin had to feel good about its chances, with Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon in the fold. However, what the Badgers didn’t know was that head coach Gary Andersen was unhappy with his situation and was looking for an exit. Wisconsin did not show up and got crushed in a massive blowout. Andersen very soon bolted for Oregon State. Wisconsin was doing well, but the Badgers had to find a replacement head coach for the second time in a few years. They won the Outback Bowl against Auburn, which might help some, but they don’t know what they have this year, especially with Gordon gone.
Alabama made the College Football Playoff with a flawed team. Nick Saban, who rivals Urban Meyer as the best coach in the game, did a great job. The Tide did lose the playoff semifinals to Ohio State, but they still did very well to get there. Now, the Tide will try to do it all over again with a new quarterback, replacing Jacob Sims.
The line is consistently -12 for Alabama, which represents little movement in the present tense, but two points of movement since Las Vegas came out with the initial lines for this game. It was a 10-point spread on the college football odds board a few months ago in some of the sportsbooks in Nevada. This movement toward Alabama reflects the belief and trust in Nick Saban as an elite college coach who, first of all, doesn’t lose these neutral-site games (this is in suburban Dallas), and second, usually has his teams really well prepared to play openers. What is also at work here is distrust of Wisconsin’s first year head coach Paul Chryst, who comes from the University of Pittsburgh, where he never won more than seven games. Chryst’s inconsistency as a coach lingers over this game. Saban could dominate the matchup.
Wisconsin is in worse shape here, a reason for Alabama’s spread nudging ahead a little bit before settling at 12 points. Defensive end Jake Keefer, guard Ray Ball, wide receiver Reggie Love, offensive tackle Beau Benzschawel, and linebacker Leon Jacobs are all listed as questionable. That’s a lot of depth which is imperiled, and bodies have to be healthy enough to go up against Alabama’s physical and punishing style. Offensive tackles Walker Williams and Hayden Biegel have been upgraded to probable for this game, as has wide receiver Tanner McEvoy, who used to be a quarterback for this team and might also see some action on defense at the safety position.
Alabama will have two players listed as questionable for this game, wide receiver Parker Barrineau and defensive lineman Korren Kirven.
Handicapping The Game
The Crimson Tide should win, but Jacob Coker and the other quarterback possibilities for Alabama have too many uncertainties. Wisconsin also thinks it has corrected the throwing mechanics of quarterback Joel Stave. The coaching matchup is a mismatch, but Alabama’s players might not be that much better than Wisconsin’s. The Tide will win by 10 but back the Badgers to cover the spread with your college football picks.
College Football Pick: Wisconsin +12 at Pinnacle