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Preview: Wisconsin Badgers

When I originally previewed the Wisconsin Badgers in the summer, it appeared as though they would be one of the conference's top teams, especially if their pass defense was able to step forward despite the loss of NFL early-entrant Jack Ikegwuonu. When we spoke to Derek Zetlin this week, we learned that a lot has changed for the Badgers so far this season, but the expectations are still high.

First, let's take a look at Derek's list of things that weren't quite right with the preview:
  • Evridge actually won the starting job last year but a hamstring injury allowed Donovan to step in and win the job. He's also not as immobile as you make it seem.
  • I wouldn't consider Hill a "Fatty" anymore. He's lost weight and is now elusive more than ever.
  • WR Maurice Moore is seeing more snaps than the other backups after Jefferson and Gilreath.
  • O'Brien Schofield starts at DE opposite Shaughnessy.
  • McFadden starts over Hodge at MLB. Hodge is actually 3rd on the depth chart behind St. Jean because he sucks that much.
  • Goins and Brinkley have split time opposite Langford. Jay Valai starts at SS over Pleasant.
  • Nortman punts over Debauche and he's looked good so far.
In addition, some important things have changed since then:
  • Lance Smith was kicked off the team prior to the first game for violating the First Offender Program regarding a domestic violence charge from a year ago. He transfered to Memphis.
  • Beckum did miss the first 2 games because of a hamstring injury. Evridge threw for 308 yards i that game, granted it was against Marshall. But Graham has really looked great and in my mind will be an NFL TE.
  • Kirk Decremer is out for the season with a back injury.
  • Henry has been hurt all year, but might be back for the Michigan game.
So it appears that the Badgers have been missing a couple key pieces to the team.

As per usual, the Badgers look to move the ball behind a power run game on the newly-slimmed legs of PJ Hill. There will be lots of between-the-tackles action behind a strong O-line, and a play-action passing game relying mostly on the tight ends.

However, there is a bit of uncertainty due to injury for the Badgers. Hill has been slightly nicked up, and with Lance Smith off the team, backups John Clay and Zach Brown look to play a more prominent role. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Clay also has had some injury issues so far this fall. If Hill is less than 100%, Michigan may be able to stop Wisconsin by focusing on the run game, and forcing Allan Evridge to get it done through the air.

Even if Travis Beckum still isn't 100%, however, Garrett Graham is also a darn good option from the tight end position. If Beckum is 100%, Wisconsin should be able to do some really good things in the passing game by going to the TEs. The wideouts don't pose a huge threat on their own, but with a strong running game and two skilled tight ends to take the defense's focus off the perimeter, there may be a couple plays available to the Badgers.

Defensively, the Badgers have run hot and cold. Until the Fresno State game, they were on a run of starting games slowly, so if Michigan wins the toss, it might be a good idea to take the ball to start out. The secondary is the major point of weakness for Wisconsin, though they have performed somewhat admirably so far (albeit against Fresno State and a pair of tomato cans). With the potential return of Aaron Henry, they could see another step forward in that respect.

The Badgers are doing a good job against the run, but they've faced even-less-prolific offenses in that respect. Michigan is also running a different scheme than any of the Badgers' opponents so far, and they might be able to expose some weaknesses with the zone-read game. Like many traditional power-run teams, the Badgers have a problem with spread offenses, so the Wolverines may be able to exploit that.

Offensively, Michigan should be able to have some success. If they manage to execute like they did against Notre Dame, minus the egregious mistakes (i.e. several thousand fumbles, Nick Sheridan), they should be able to move the ball.

Predictions
Michigan gets its highest scoring output of the year (currently 23 points against Utah)
The defense helps out in that respect, coming away with a turnover that gives Michigan the ball somewhere inside the red zone (or scoring one themselves).
Wisconsin wins, 34-24

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“Preview: Wisconsin Badgers”

  1. Anonymous Jacques Auef Says:

    It's been reported that Hill's injury is a deep thigh bruise.

    If true, watch for how UM tries to tackle Hill.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    No surprise here, Gordon goes blue. Welcome Thomas.