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Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin: NCAAF Week 4 betting odds, preview, and pick

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September 24th, 2021

The No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers will clash inside Soldier Field at noon ET on Saturday, in their first meeting since 1964.

The Irish will look to add to their 8-6-2 lead in the series and hand Brian Kelly a record-setting 106th win as head coach. Kelly tied legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne for most victories in program history with Notre Dame's 27-13 triumph over Purdue last weekend.

Sat, September 25 2021, 4:00 PM

Notre Dame

Moneyline

+180

Spread

+5.5

Total

O 45

Wisconsin

Moneyline

-230

Spread

-5.5

Total

U 45

Irish must win turnover battle to hang with Wisconsin

In spite of their 3-0 start, the Irish have been far from a difficult out this season.

They required overtime to outlast a poor Florida State team, narrowly beat Toledo in Week 2, and needed a pair of fourth-quarter scores to break away from Purdue.

The defense has struggled to stop the run — which will cause headaches against Wisconsin's top 10 rushing attack — and its offensive line has allowed 4.7 sacks per contest.

The time of possession battle is another concern for Notre Dame. The Irish rank 83rd in time of possession (28:46), compared to Wisconsin's 41:27 ToP, which is best in college football.

Where the Irish have excelled is in the red zone (100% scoring percentage), and creating takeaways (two per game). Wisconsin, on the other hand, has recorded just one takeaway across its two games, and quarterback Graham Mertz can be turnover-prone.

The Badgers are 0-4 in games where Mertz records an interception.

Mertz's predecessor at Wisconsin, Jack Coan, will be under center for the Irish. Coan has thrown for 828 yards and eight touchdown passes in three games for his new team.

Wisconsin run game will set the tone

While Mertz has been shaky in the passing game, the Wisconsin rushing attack is one of the best in college.

The Badgers run the ball on 65.32% of plays and average 263 yards per game (10th most in the FBS).

Junior Chez Mellusi has been a star in the ground game, with 121 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries in a 16-10 loss to No. 6 Penn State, and another 144 yards and a score on 20 attempts against Eastern Michigan.

Wisconsin is just as good at stopping the run, and ranks second in rushing yards allowed per game (33).

On the contrary, Notre Dame has surrendered 148.3 yards per contest, good for 69th in the nation. 

Where Wisconsin's defense is weak is in the secondary. In the team's Week 1 loss to Penn State, the stop unit held the Nittany Lions to 43 yards in the first half, but let quarterback Sean Clifford pass for 206 of his 247 yards in the second half.

That breakdown on defense could spell trouble against Notre Dame, considering Coan threw touchdown passes of 39, 51, and 62 yards last week against Purdue. 

If Coan can put up a few of those passes against Wisconsin's secondary, Notre Dame has a chance to pull off a win against a team that is 0-6 in its last six games against ranked opponents.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Wisconsin Badgers injury report

Notre Dame Fighting IrishWisconsin Badgers
RB Logan Diggs: Questionable (undisclosed)
TE Jack Eschenbach: Questionable (arm)
RB C’Bo Flemister: Questionable (undisclosed)
CB Deron Harrell: Questionable (arm)
LB Prince Kollie: Questionable (undisclosed)
LB Aaron Witt: Questionable (undisclosed)
OL Michael Carmody: Questionable (ankle)
CB Al Ashford: Out (arm)
DL Osita Ekwonu: Out (Achilles)
TE Cole Dakovich: Out (leg)

Notre Dame and Wisconsin betting trends

  • Notre Dame is 1-4 ATS in its last five games overall
  • Wisconsin is 6-1 ATS in its last seven non-conference games
  • Wisconsin is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games as a favorite
  • The Under is 4-0 in Notre Dame's last four neutral site games as an underdog
  • The Under is 4-0 in Wisconsin’s last four games vs. a team with a winning record

Wisconsin's familiarity with Coan will work in the Badgers' favor

Mertz and the Wisconsin passing game are a concern against Notre Dame's secondary, led by standout safety Kyle Hamilton (21 total tackles, three interceptions).

Mertz was intercepted twice on his final two drives of the game against Penn State, and one of those picks occurred at Penn State's eight-yard line. If he can play a clean game and let the Wisconsin run game do the brunt of the work, the Badgers should come away with a win.

The team's familiarity with Coan will also work to Wisconsin's advantage and help the school beat a ranked opponent for the first time since it defeated then-No. 9 Minnesota in 2019.

Score prediction: Wisconsin 24, Notre Dame 20

NCAAF Week 4 pick: Under 45

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