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NCAAF expert Alex Kirshner previews and provides betting picks for Wisconsin @ Notre Dame on Saturday
ANALYSIS

Wisconsin vs Notre Dame Prediction, Over/Under Pick and Latest Odds

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Spread: Wisconsin -5.5

Total: 46.5

Game time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FOX

Click here to see the betting odds for Wisconsin vs Notre Dame.

Wisconsin vs Notre Dame Prediction

Wisconsin has only played two games, but what we’ve seen from the Badgers so far suggests that they are relentlessly themselves. Their offense consists of a mediocre QB, some OK receivers and tight ends, a beefy line, and a good running back. Their defense is really good. So far, that’s gotten them to 1-1, as they lost a brutal home opener against Penn State and then cruised past a MAC team, Eastern Michigan, before taking their bye in Week 3.

Notre Dame has played three games. The Irish have won all three, but they haven’t looked inspired in any of them, and it’s hard to figure out if this is a down-year Notre Dame or a potential New Year’s bowl-contending Notre Dame. It could be either, but it doesn’t instill a ton of confidence that the Irish needed overtime to beat what’s now an 0-3 Florida State or that they needed a late comeback to top Toledo, which just lost big to miserable Colorado State.

On the whole, it’s hard to know what to make of these teams’ Week 4 neutral-site meeting in Chicago. The Irish are getting just less than a touchdown, and that feels like a lot to me, but again, they haven’t provided much reason to be optimistic about their performance. But neither has Wisconsin, which fell pretty flat in its only game against a serious opponent to date. The thing I feel most confident about is that this game will be a slog, with both offenses struggling and not a ton of tempo. Those thoughts point toward the under as the most informed play.

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The Wisconsin offense looks like pure pain. Former four-star QB Graham Mertz looked great in his debut in last season’s opener against Illinois, and he’s shown almost no sign of improvement (or even replication of that performance) since then. He was awful against Penn State’s elite defense in Week 1, and he put forward a flawed showing against Eastern Michigan in Week 2. (His numbers were fine, but he made a few red-zone mistakes, just as he did the week prior.) Mertz’s offensive line has blown open a few holes for running back Chez Mellusi, but the unit isn’t as good as the term “Wisconsin offensive line” probably stirs up in your mind. Mertz hasn’t been sacked yet, but Wisconsin QBs have been pressured on about a quarter of their drop-backs to date, according to Pro Football Focus. The Irish might bother Mertz plenty.

Notre Dame’s offense is … interesting. Coan is a former Wisconsin QB whom the Irish scooped up in the transfer portal in the offseason. Coan might be better than the much more touted QB who took the starting job from him in Madison, but the Notre Dame offense he now runs has been pretty rickety through three weeks. Coan’s best showing was in Week 1 at FSU, and he’s gotten steadily worse in the Toledo and Purdue games. Notre Dame has an elite running back in Kyren Williams, but he’s barely been able to get out of neutral through three games. (He ripped off a 51-yard TD run to ice the Purdue game after getting stymied all day.) An offensive line that replaced four NFL players after last season has understandably not kept up last year’s level. It seems unlikely that Notre Dame will exceed a 20-something point total against this defense.

Could Wisconsin’s offense hum along enough to exceed the game’s total anyway? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Mertz is extremely sloppy, and Notre Dame has an All-American safety, Kyle Hamilton, who could make a disjointed QB like Mertz see ghosts all afternoon. The Irish also have the edge players and linebackers to cause problems against a Wisconsin offensive line that, again, is likely not quite as good as its reputation and numbers would suggest.

While considering the under, I briefly paused because Wisconsin has run 85 plays per game over its first two appearances this season –– the highest average play count in the country. That doesn’t smell good for the under. But over the last five years, Wisconsin has run 69 plays per game, 80th in the country, and there’s no reason I can see to expect their pace to slow down considerably against Notre Dame. Paul Chryst is not historically a tempo-oriented coach, and neither is Brian Kelly. Both teams should run something like 70 plays, and the defenses should beat the offenses more often than not. The under is the wager I feel strongest about.

Wisconsin vs Notre Dame Prediction & Pick: Under 46.5 @ -110

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Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.

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