Wisconsin vs Washington State Odds, Picks, and Predictions: Badgers Bring Air Raid to Pullman

College football fans got a sneak peek at Wisconsin's new Air Raid-style offense in Week 1, and now they'll bring it into Pullman, WA, where Mike Leach employed it for so many years. Our college football betting picks see a shootout developing in this one.

Rob Paul - Betting Analyst at Covers.com
Rob Paul • Betting Analyst
Sep 8, 2023 • 12:52 ET • 4 min read
Tanner Mordecai Wisconsin Badgers NCAAF
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Despite the death of Mike Leach last December, his fingerprints remain all over college football. That includes this matchup between Washington State, where he previously coached, and Wisconsin, which is leaning into an entirely new offense.

Both the Cougars and the Badgers run some variation of the Air Raid offense Leach and Hal Mumme developed at Iowa Wesleyan in the 90s, and that sets up well for some offensive fireworks in Pullman. That’s why when looking at the college football odds around the country for Saturday, this game is a hidden gem.

Find out where my best bets lie in our college football picks and predictions for Wisconsin vs. Washington State on Saturday, September 9.

Wisconsin vs Washington State best odds

Wisconsin vs Washington State picks and predictions

Predominantly known for running the ball, new Wisconsin head coach Luke Fickell shocked the college football world when he hired North Carolina offensive coordinator Phil Longo to implement the Air Raid in Madison.

Longo’s Tar Heels offense ranked 10th in EPA per play and 11th in EPA per pass last year, a far cry from a Badgers offense that ranked 92nd in EPA per play and 113th in EPA per pass last season.

To help juice up the offense even more, Fickell and Longo brought in quarterback Tanner Mordecai via the transfer portal.

Mordecai, who played under both Sonny Dykes and Rhett Lashlee at SMU, threw for 72 touchdowns in two seasons with the Mustangs and helped them finish 27th in EPA per play in 2022.

Joining Mordecai in Longo’s offense is Braelon Allen, one of the top running backs in all of college football.

He and fellow 2024 NFL Draft prospect Chez Mellusi make for one of the most dangerous one-two punches at running back in the country. The duo have combined for 3,798 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

Longo’s version of the Air Raid takes advantage of its most talented players, and he isn’t going to shy away from running the ball when he has two studs in the backfield. In 2020, while calling plays for the Tar Heels, he had Javonte Williams and Michael Carter combine for 2,957 yards from scrimmage.

Allen and Mellusi are poised to bruise a Washington State defense that finished 77th in EPA per play last season despite head coach Jake Dickert’s background being on that side of the ball. While Mordecai can take advantage of a Cougars defense finishing 89th in EPA per pass.

Dickert, who grew up in Wisconsin and played college football at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he also began his coaching career as a defensive grad assistant, even highlighted how different it is to see Wisconsin running the Air Raid. 

"This is not the Wisconsin team that I know growing up," he said.

Luckily for Dickert and the Washington State faithful, they have some offensive firepower of their own, headlined by quarterback Cameron Ward.

Ward, who was a star freshman at Incarnate Word in 2021, threw for 3,232 yards and added 28 touchdowns in his first season with the Cougars last year.

As Ward acclimated to the FBS level, Washington State’s offense improved, scoring at least 28 points in four of its final five games.

With offensive coordinator Eric Morris, who had the Cougars ranked 49th in EPA per play last season, now the head coach at North Texas, Dickert hired Ben Arbuckle.

The 27-year-old Arbuckle spent the 2022 season as Western Kentucky’s play caller, running his Air Raid offense that helped the Hilltoppers finish 26th in EPA per play and 20th in EPA per pass while quarterback Austin Reed led the country in passing yards with 4,746.

The addition of Arbuckle looks like it's already paying dividends too with Ward’s Week 1 performance against Colorado State. The redshirt junior finished with 451 passing yards and four total touchdowns while completing 75.5% of his passes against the Rams.

In addition to Ward and his rocket arm, Arbuckle inherits veteran running back Nakia Watson, who had 1,065 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns last season, and three receivers with over 800 career yards in Kyle Williams, Lincoln Victor, and Josh Kelly.

Wisconsin’s defense certainly poses a challenge to Ward, Arbuckle & Co., but with a new defensive coordinator in Mike Tressel and its two best players both playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers (Nick Herbig and Keeanu Benton), it won’t be what it was last season.

My best bet: Over 58 (-110 at bet365)

Wisconsin vs Washington State same-game parlay

Over 57.5

Wisconsin -6.5

With the way Fickell built the Cincinnati Bearcats into a College Football Playoff contender despite being a Group of Five program, Badgers fans have to be elated about the potential of this team going forward.

The Badgers are currently ranked 19th in the country and have a terrifying running back duo, a veteran quarterback, and a classically mean offensive line. Mix it all together with Longo calling plays, and it equals points.

Anything can happen in a Pullman shootout, but with the Badgers proven coaching staff and overall talent, they’re in position to win this one by at least a touchdown.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Wisconsin vs Washington State spread and Over/Under analysis

The Badgers kicked off the Fickell era last week as 28.5-point favorites against a tough Buffalo team that they only managed to beat 38-17. Meanwhile, the Cougars easily covered the -9-point spread against Colorado State in a 50-24 win.

The battle between these two opened with Wisconsin as 5-point road favorites, with the line dipping down to -4 before jumping up to -6.

After both teams hit the Over on their game totals in Week 1 — Wisconsin’s was 52 and Washington State’s 54 — this one opened between 54.5 and 55 at most books.

Throughout the week it slowly rose to 58, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the experience at quarterback and both Longo and Arbuckle being known for their fast-paced high-scoring attacks.

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Wisconsin vs Washington State betting trend to know

Wisconsin has hit the Game Total Over in 8 of their last 13 games (+2.50 Units / 17% ROI). Find more college football betting trends for Wisconsin vs Washington State.

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Wisconsin vs Washington State game info

Location: Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
Date: Saturday, September 9, 2023
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

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