Wisconsin was a 5.5-point favorite over Purdue on Friday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
The Badgers are in a period of transition under new coach Luke Fickell. After decades of a run-first offense with a quarterback under center and multiple running backs behind him, Wisconsin has transitioned to an Air Raid attack under offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
Wisconsin brought in former Oklahoma and SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai during the offseason and he threw for 702 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions in three games. The game pace is still very fast; Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen have split carries so far this season and are each averaging at least 6.5 yards a carry. Mellusi had 40 carries for 268 yards and four scores while Allen had 36 carries for 255 yards and four TDs.
Purdue also has a first-year coach in Ryan Walters. The former Illinois defensive coordinator will be the youngest head coach in the Big Ten in 2023 and his tenure opened with home losses to Fresno State and Syracuse. The Boilermakers gave up 39 points to the Bulldogs and allowed 35 points to Syracuse in Week 3 as Orange QB Garrett Shrader shredded the Purdue defense for 195 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Mordecai isn’t nearly the rushing threat that Shrader is and Friday night should be a good test if Week 3 is a fluke for Purdue’s defense. Fresno State rushed for 116 yards on 37 carries in Week 1 and the Boilermakers held Virginia Tech to 11 yards on 22 carries in Week 2. If Wisconsin can make things happen on the ground — can’t it? does that sound familiar? — the Badgers should cover that number quickly. If they can’t, then Purdue has a chance at home to actually win.
NC State is favored over Virginia
NC State is an 8.5-point BetMGM favorite over Virginia as the Wolfpack looks to start ACC play with a win and get a win over a Power Five opponent.
NC State (2-1) started the season with a 24-14 win at UConn before a 21-point home loss against Notre Dame in Week 2. Virginia (0-3) was blown out by Tennessee in Week 1 and lost to James Madison in Week 2 by one point before losing 42-14 to former ACC rival Maryland in Week 3.
This will be the first game back in Charlottesville for NC State QB Brennan Armstrong. The three-year starter transferred to NC State in the offseason and reunited with former UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
Anae was Virginia’s OC in 2021 when Armstrong threw for 4,449 yards and 31 TDs. So far, Armstrong has not been able to replicate that success at NC State. He averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt and threw for 679 yards and three TDs and three interceptions in three games.
Tony Muskett started the opener for Virginia before he was injured. Freshman Anthony Colandrea started against James Madison and was the team’s starter against Maryland despite Muskett returning to practice. It’s unclear who will be the starting QB for the Cavaliers on Friday night.
We are leaning towards the higher as the total is 47.5. NC State’s defense is capable of shutting down Virginia’s offense, but Colandrea has been successful enough as a deep passer in his limited action that we think he’ll hit a big play or two if he starts.
Two games in the Mountain West
It’s a night of road favorites as Boise State and Air Force are each favored on the road as well. The Broncos are 6.5-point favorites over San Diego State while Air Force is a 6-point favorite over San Jose State.
Boise State is 1-2 thanks to losses at Washington and at home against UCF. San Diego State is 2-2 and enters on a two-game losing streak. The Aztecs lost 35-10 to UCLA in Week 3 and fell 26-9 to Oregon State in Week 4.
San Diego State is averaging just 323 yards a game on offense and has rushed 67 times for 133 yards over the past two games. Boise State’s problem is on defense. It has allowed 1,098 total yards and more than eight yards a game in its two losses. San Diego State should be a good opponent for Boise’s offense to go down the road.
Air Force is 3-0 and its triple-option offense averages 320 rushing yards a game on 5.4 yards a carry. The defense gave up just 11 points per game and held Sam Houston State to 80 yards on 44 plays in Week 2.
San Jose State (1-3) has yet to beat an FBS opponent after losing to Toledo, 21-17 in Week 3 and its offense has struggled in its last two losses. San Jose State averaged 4.5 yards a play against Oregon State in Week 1 and just 3.8 yards a play against the Rockets. That could be a bad recipe against a strong Air Force defense.
Who cashed tickets on Thursday?
The San Francisco 49ers cruised to a 30-12 home victory over the New York Giants. Christian McCaffrey had 119 total yards and one TD while Brock Purdy threw for 310 yards and two scores.
The Tampa Bay Rays also gained a game on the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East with a 5-4 win over the Angels. The Orioles lost to the Cleveland Guardians Thursday night and lead the division by one game.