Western Kentucky vs Wisconsin begins its College Football Playoff quest Friday night in Camp Randall Stadium, one season after coming within a game of qualifying for the four-team extravaganza. Led by superstar running back and Heisman Trophy contender Jonathan Taylor, the high-powered Badgers rushing offense will hope to get going on a national stage.
Meanwhile, second-year coach Mike Sanford is hoping to lead his Western Kentucky team back to the postseason after falling to Georgia State in the Cure Bowl a year ago.
Date: Friday, Aug. 31 | Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Camp Randall Stadium — Madison, Wisconsin
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have to replace star quarterback Mike White and don’t have a lot of experienced help around him to ease the transition. There are no returning starters at any of the skill positions on offense, the offensive line has some issues and junior Drew Eckels only attempted 11 passes last year. The offense needs to come out clicking in order to keep up with what the Badgers have in store.
Wisconsin: The Badgers will be without leading receiver Quintez Cephus and sophomore Danny Davis because of suspensions. So the most important aspect of the game won’t be whether the Badgers win or lose, it’s how the passing game looks without players who were being counted on heading into the year. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook played the best game of his career in the Orange Bowl to close out last season, and he’s going to have to show that he can build off that if Wisconsin is going to contend for the CFP. The offensive line features three players named either first- or second-team AP All-America, and Taylor is a bonafide stud. While the focus is on the Wisconsin offense, don’t let it slip that the Badgers’ defense is rock solid on all three levels as well.
Western Kentucky’s new-look offense is going to struggle to score against the Badgers for a full four quarters. So the questions then become: How much does Hornibrook look through the air, do receivers step up, and when does coach Paul Chryst take his foot off the gas? It’ll be late enough in the game to cover the massive spread. Pick: Wisconsin (-34.5)
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