Week one of the college football season continues on Friday night as the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers travel to Raymond James Stadium to take on the South Florida Bulls. Neither team was particularly happy about their 2018 seasons and look to improve this year.
For the Badgers, after opening 2018 as the No. 4 team in the nation, they finished the season 8-5. A win in the Pinstripe Bowl over Miami helped, but they still had a sour taste in their mouths going into the offseason.
The USF Bulls had high hopes after winning their first seven games, but losing the last six in a row was really disappointing for Charlie Strong and company. Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 pm ET.
For Wisconsin, there are a few more uncertainties than usual this time of year for the Badgers. After quarterback Alex Hornibrook transferred to Florida State, they now have to decide on a signal caller between Jack Coan or true freshman Graham Martz.
They also may have some work to do on the offensive line and on the defensive side of the ball, but one sure thing for the Badgers will be star running back Jonathan Taylor.
It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell handles the Bulls. Quarterback Blake Barnett has shown promise, but can he finally step up to the next level? Between Barnett, Jordan Cronkite, and Randall St. Felix, Bell certainly has tools to work with on the offensive side.
The point spread for this one currently sits with the Wisconsin Badgers being a 10.5-point favorite despite playing on the road. The over/under on total points scored is set at 58.5 points.
By The Numbers
In 2018, Wisconsin had the slight edge in terms of offensive output. They ranked 47th in the nation last season in points per game at 29.7 (25 on the road). USF ranked 64th overall, averaging 28 points per game (25.3 at home).
On the defensive side, it was once again Wisconsin that held an advantage. They ranked 27th in the nation in opponents points per game, allowing just 22.6 per game (25.8 on the road). USF came in 97th in the nation, allowing 33.5 points per game (33 at home).
Badgers Ride Taylor’s Running
Going into the season, Jonathan Taylor is on a short list of potential Heisman candidates. Last season, the running back rushed 307 times for 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also added eight receptions for 60 yards.
The key for Taylor and the Badgers is whether they can block for him up front and whether the Badgers can install a consistent passing game to take pressure off of him. If they can, watch out, as Taylor could lift the Badgers higher than most expect of them.
Take A Big Step Forward
As previously mentioned, 7-0 looked really good for the Bulls until the meltdown that was the last six games of 2018. Still, there is some talent, and the Bulls look to take the next step forward. Last season, quarterback Blake Barnett was 214 for 350 with 2,705 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He also rushed 107 times for 301 yards and another eight touchdowns.
While those numbers are solid, the Bulls are hoping that he has another level in him that he might be able to reach in his senior year.
In the backfield, Jordan Cronkrite, another senior, will be trying to build on last year’s success, when he rushed 184 times for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had seven receptions for 30 yards.
Speaking of receptions, Barnett will have one of his favorite targets back. Randall St. Felix brought in 33 receptions last year for 679 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games. Entering his sophomore year, he could be poised for a bit of a breakout season.
Week One’s Always Tough To Call
Traditionally, week one can always be a tough one to call in terms of betting. You always seem to have that crazy upset, and, to some degree, teams are still trying to figure out what they have. With such uncertainty, I generally side with the most talent on the field, and that certainly lies with Wisconsin.
While the offensive line is far from a certainty, there is just no denying Taylor’s ability. If he can get into a groove Friday, he could singlehandedly carve apart the Bulls’ defense. For my money, I am taking Wisconsin not only to win straight up but to cover the 10.5 points.