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Game of the Day: Wisconsin at Alabama

Wisconsin Badgers at Alabama Crimson Tide (-12, 51)

Third-ranked Alabama and No. 18 Wisconsin aren’t timidly entering the season as the two powerhouses square off Saturday in a showdown in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide are seeking to win 10 or more games for the eighth straight season while the Badgers are breaking in a new coach in Paul Chryst.

Chryst replaced Gary Andersen, who departed for Oregon State, after three seasons as coach of Pittsburgh and now finds himself facing Nick Saban and Alabama in his Wisconsin debut. “It’s not about me and I’ve never gone into a game where I felt that it was about me,” Chryst told reporters. “I think that this game is a big game and it’s probably happening because of what both programs have done previous years.” Saban had yet to announce a starting quarterback at mid-week and said senior Jake Coker, sophomore Cooper Bateman and junior Alec Morris are all still in the running. “We’re going to make the decision when we think it’s the right time to make the decision for this group of guys,” Saban told reporters. “I would have liked to have made it three months ago.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC.

LINE HISTORY: After opening the Tide as 10.5-point home favorites, sportsbooks have since adjusted that number to -12.

INJURY REPORT: Wisconsin – T. McEvoy (probable), H. Biegel (out indefinitely). Alabama – K. Kirven (questionable), P. Barrineau (questionable).

WEATHER: At game time, the forecast is calling for temperatures of 91 degrees Fahrenheit with precipitation not expected to play a factor.

WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “It’s the first time in a long time that Alabama isn’t considered a favorite to win the title, but the Crimson Tide have to replace a long list of key contributors. They lose their starting quarterback, their top running back, and No. 1-wideout Amari Cooper. They still have a proven star in the backfield in Derrick Henry, and their defensive line ranks among the best in the nation.” Jesse Schule

ABOUT WISCONSIN (2014: 11-3): All-everything running back Melvin Gordon is on to the NFL but there’s not an abundance of fear over that loss with junior Corey Clement (949 yards, nine touchdowns) coming off a highly productive backup season. Senior quarterback Joel Stave looks to rebound after throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (nine) last season and Chryst visions him returning to his 2013 form when he tossed 24 scoring passes. The Badgers ranked fourth nationally in total defense last season (294.1) and return two standout outside linebackers in junior Vince Biegel (team-best 16.5 tackles for losses) and senior Joe Schobert (13.5) as well senior safety Michael Caputo (team-high 106 tackles).

ABOUT ALABAMA (2014: 12-2): Coker passed for 403 yards and four touchdowns as a backup last season while neither Bateman nor Morris have thrown a pass in a college contest. As usual, The Crimson Tide will have a strong running game with junior Derrick Henry (990 yards, 11 touchdowns in 2014) and senior Kenyan Drake, who missed most of last season due to a broken leg. The Crimson Tide ranked sixth in scoring defense (18.4) defense last season and will be strong again with junior defensive end Jonathan Allen (11.5 tackles for loss) and senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland (10.5 TFL) leading the way.

TRENDS:

*Over is 13-3-1 in Crimson Tide last 17 neutral site games.

*Crimson Tide are 3-12-1 ATS in their last 16 non-conference games.

*Badgers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.

*Over is 3-0-2 in Badgers last 5 games overall.

CONSENSUS: 51 percent of spread wagers are currently on the visiting Badgers.