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College Football

Game of the week: Wisconsin Badgers vs. LSU Tigers betting preview

A win over LSU could carry Badgers to a playoff berth

On Thursday's SI Now, Sports Illlustrated college football writers Zac Ellis and Martin Rickman break down the potential difference makers in the big week one non-conference matchup between Wisconsin and LSU.

Two programs that pride themselves on power football will clash Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Texas when the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers take on the No. 13 LSU Tigers.

LSU was a 5-point favorite heading into the big game at shops monitored by OddsShark.com this week. The loser will find itself in an early hole as top programs try to qualify for the new College Football Playoff.

Wisconsin put together another strong campaign in 2013 going 9-4 SU and ATS. The Badgers’ offense was powered by one of the best running games in the country, averaging 283.8 rushing yards per game, and the rush will once again be the Badgers' bread and butter in 2014. Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards on 206 carries last year and will be the focal point of the offense. He is currently 12-1 per Bovada’s Heisman lines.

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LSU also loves to pound the ball on the ground, rushing for 202.3 yards per game last season in the SEC. The Tigers were a respectable 10-3 SU last season but went just 5-7-1 ATS. Covering big point spreads was the problem for LSU; in three games as a favorite of a touchdown or less, the Tigers were 3-0 ATS. Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and highly touted freshman Leonard Fournette will carry the Tigers’ offense in the backfield.

Despite being ranked in the preseason top 15, Wisconsin and LSU both had heated quarterback battles this offseason. Wisconsin has opted for mobile quarterback Tanner McEvoy over last year's starter, Joel Stave. LSU still hasn't made an announcement as to who will replace Zach Mettenberger, and sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris are both expected to play against the Badgers.

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LSU trended towards the OVER last season at 8-4-1, and the total has gone OVER in eight of LSU's last nine season openers. Wisconsin is just 2-12 SU in its last 14 games as an underdog away from home.

This is a big game for both teams. Wisconsin has a pretty smooth schedule after this matchup, and a win over LSU could catapult the Badgers to a possible berth in the playoff. The Tigers would love to solve their quarterback issue before SEC play begins, and getting a win against a quality opponent could help in that department.

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