Notre Dame (No. 12 AP/No. 10 USA Today) opens what could be a season-defining stretch of three consecutive games versus high-caliber opponents Saturday when it faces No. 18/No. 15 Wisconsin at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The teams were supposed to begin a sort of home-and-home series last year in Green Bay at Lambeau Field with the Badgers designated as the “home” team, but that will eventually be rescheduled. The game is part of Notre Dame’s “Shamrock Series,” in which it is 9-0 all-time. After this game, the Irish will face coach Brian Kelly’s former team, No. 8/No. 9 Cincinnati, at home Oct. 2, and travel to Virginia Tech the following weekend.
The Irish improved to 3-0 last weekend by defeating Purdue 27-13. Kyren Williams had 168 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, sealing the victory with a 51-yard scoring run with 6:05 to play. Kelly enters this game with 120 victories at Notre Dame, and the next one will move him ahead of Knute Rockne for the most in the storied school’s history.
Quarterback Jack Coan — a graduate transfer from Wisconsin — has settled in nicely in South Bend, completing 63.3% of his passes for 828 yards and eight TDs. Williams finished with 91 rushing yards versus the Boilermakers and also has shown sure hands as a receiver out of the backfield, totaling 11 receptions for 155 yards and a pair of scores.
Wisconsin (1-1) was idle last weekend but took some of the sting out of its season-opening home loss to Penn State by cruising past Eastern Michigan 34-7 on Sept. 11. Chez Mellusi rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown as the Badgers did not allow a touchdown defensively and limited the Eagles to three first downs and 92 total yards.
Graham Mertz, who took over the starting job after Coan suffered a foot injury last year, was 14-17 for 141 yards but is still looking for his first touchdown pass of the season. This is essentially a must-win game for the Badgers to have any hopes to be included in talk for the College Football Playoff.
Oddsmakers install Badgers as favorites
Where to pregame, tailgate around Soldier Field ahead of the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin game — and what to eat once you’re insidehttps://t.co/VdJQl2vsnb
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) September 23, 2021
Despite the 3-0 start, Notre Dame has been more grinding than glossy in its victories. Oddsmakers have taken note of that by installing Wisconsin as a favorite ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 points depending on the sportsbook of choice.
FanDuel and the Kambi platform powering BetRivers and Unibet are on the low side for the spread, with Irish backers able to get +5.5 at a slightly better value from Kambi (-104) than FanDuel (-108). No book has a flat +6, with everyone else trying to lure bettors at 6.5. PointsBet, BetMGM, Caesars, theScore, and WynnBET are all offering the standard -110 each way, with DraftKings offering a -115/-105 split for Notre Dame +6.5.
TheScore has the best moneyline play for those pulling for an Irish upset at +200, though FanDuel lurks right behind at +198. BetRivers and Unibet are on the low side at +180, while other books are listing +190. BetRivers, Unibet, and Caesars, though, have the best value for Wisconsin at -230.
FanDuel is the only book veering off 45 points for the over/under, offering a half point more with a -106/-114 split. The Kambi books have a -113/-108 split at 45 points and DraftKings lists its split at -115/-105 while the other books offering 45 do so at -110 in each direction.
The team totals have slightly more variety, especially in terms of value. Notre Dame can be grabbed at either 19 or 19.5 points, with theScore offering -120/-110 and PointsBet -121/-110 at the lower number. FanDuel has the best value for over 19.5 points at -118, with DraftKings the best on the under at +100.
Kambi has the best play for those bullish on Wisconsin’s offense with a -117/-113 split at 25.5 points, though FanDuel has a -108/-114 listing one full point higher.
The hook is in play for first-half doings
Notre Dame +3.5 in the first half is a popular play across most of the Indiana sportsbooks, with only theScore and BetMGM (+100/-120) offering the Irish plus a flat field goal. Caesars and WynnBet are offering the Irish +3.5 at -110, while those confident in Wisconsin covering despite the hook can grab it at even money on DraftKings.
FanDuel again stands alone on its total offering, this time with a split of -120/+100 for 22.5 points in the first two quarters. At the opposite end, Kambi has a -106/-124 split at 23.5 points. Everyone else is offering the “sweet spot” of 23 points, with DraftKings, Caesars, and WynnBET all listing a +100/-120 split.
Purdue and Indiana favorites to post bounce-back wins
QB Michael Penix Jr. with a determined message earlier today on his Instagram story. #iufb pic.twitter.com/FnAJanLmpU
— IndianaHQ (@IndianaHQ) September 23, 2021
In other Indiana college football action, the Purdue Boilermakers (2-1) and Indiana Hoosiers (1-2) are both trying to regroup from defeats, with the latter coming off a 38-24 home loss to Cincinnati. Purdue is hosting Big Ten rival Illinois — a game unavailable for betting in the Land of Lincoln as an in-state school — while Indiana wraps up its non-conference schedule at Western Kentucky.
Purdue is an 11-point favorite at most books, though FanDuel is offering -11.5 at -105. It also has the lowest over/under total at 52.5 with a -110 split, while Kambi books have a -105/-115 offering for 53.5 points.
Indiana ranges as a favorite from 8.5 points (-112) on the Kambi platform to -9.5 at FanDuel (-108). As for the over/under, BetMGM sits on the low side with 62.5 points at -110. FanDuel, DraftKings, and PointsBet are all offering the high-side at 63.5, with PointsBet at -110 each way, DraftKings listing -115/-105, and FanDuel -114/-106.