Coming off their blowout season-opening win against UNLV, Wisconsin welcomes another non-conference opponent to Camp Randall Stadium when the Pac-12’s Oregon State Beavers roll into Madison for their 11:00 a.m. showdown with the Badgers on Saturday.
Like their game against the Rebels, Wisconsin should be heavily favored in this match-up. Yes, Oregon State is in a BCS conference and will pose a tougher challenge than UNLV. But this is not a team that will finish with a winning record this year and will be in the running for last place in the Pac-12. This past weekend, they lost at home 29-28 in overtime to their FCS opponent, Sacramento State. Before then, the Hornets had never beaten an FBS team. Certainly not a good sign for the Beavers going into the 2011 season.
But regardless, Oregon State should challenge the Badgers slightly more than did UNLV. Here’s a quick scouting report for next weekend.
As of right now, there is some uncertainty about who will be under center for the Beavers on Saturday. Against Sacramento State, starting quarterback Ryan Katz was benched after going 11-of-22 for just 87 yards and an interception. Freshman Sean Mannion stepped in an went 8-of-12 for 143 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
If I had to guess, I would think that Katz would be the starter come Saturday. The junior quarterback put up good numbers for an otherwise subpar OSU team last year (213-0f-355 passing, 2,401 yards, 17 TD, 11 INT) and has experience in big games. Starting Mannion might be a little overwhelming for the freshman, so it may be smart to put in Katz despite his ugly performance last weekend.
That said, if Katz is on his game, he could pose challenges for a Wisconsin defense that wasn’t really challenged in the passing game last weekend.
After losing Jacquizz Rodgers to the NFL, many assumed Oregon State’s running game would take a huge hit. If last week is any indication, that may not be the case.
Freshman Malcolm Agnew, playing in his first ever collegiate game, rushed for 223 yards on 33 carries and three touchdowns against Sac State. No, the Hornets aren’t the Badgers, but Wisconsin had some trouble against UNLV’s rushing attack last weekend. Wisconsin will need to play much better if they hope to contain Agnew on Saturday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Oregon State has a number of receivers who will be capable of challenging Wisconsin’s defensive backs and linebackers.
First and foremost is junior wide receiver Markus Wheaton. Against Sac State, he led the Beavers with 108 receiving yards on six catches. Last season, he had 55 receptions for 675 yards and four touchdowns. He is undoubtedly a threat downfield. Freshman wideout Brandin Cooks also showed some potential last weekend.
Let’s also not forget that the Beavers like to throw to their running backs out of the backfield. Jordan Jenkins, a back-up running back, was second on the team in receptions last week, catching four passes for 55 yards.
Senior wide receiver James Rodgers, who received a medical redshirt after he injured his knee last season, likely won’t play as he is still recovering from off-season surgery.
Last week against Sac State, the Beaver offensive line allowed just two sacks and paved the way for 266 yards on the ground. It’s tough to tell against an FCS opponent like the Hornets, but it appears as though the O-Line should stack up well against a Badger D-Line that had its share of problems against UNLV.
As is obvious from the result of last week’s game, the Oregon State defense has some problems. They gave up 367 yards and 29 points en route to an embarrassing loss. But the one unit that did play pretty well was the defensive line.
Although they recorded only two sacks against the Hornets, they helped in holding Sac State to just 71 yards on the ground and a 2.2-yard average. They will definitely pose a tougher challenge for a Wisconsin rushing attack that ran freely last week.
Like the D-Line, Oregon State’s linebackers played well against the run last weekend. But against the pass, they’ll need to play much better.
Of course, much of OSU’s inability to stop the pass can be attributed to their defensive backs, but linebackers also do play a significant role. And against a Wisconsin team that loves to throw over the middle to tight ends, the OSU linebacking unit had better be on their game.
To put it lightly, this unit struggled on Saturday. The Beaver defensive backfield gave up 296 yards through the air, 13 passing first downs and three touchdowns. Not a whole lot needs to be said other than that.
True freshman kicker Trevor Romaine was 2-of-3 in his field goal attempts last week, making a 45-yarder but missing a 27-yard attempt in the closing seconds that would have won the game.
Beavers punter Johnny Hekker had a good day, averaging 48.5 yards on four punts.
On kick returns, cornerback Malcolm Marable averaged 29 yards on three returns. He could be a threat if kickoff coverage is spotty.
On just two punt returns, two OSU players gained no yards.