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Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. Nebraska

29 Sep

As possibly the most-hyped game in Wisconsin football history, all eyes will be on Madison Saturday night. Nebraska will be bringing upwards of 20,000 fans to Madison, which will up the ante even more. The excitement surrounding this game is unmatched.

But, what’s truly important is what happens on the field.

The Huskers have had trouble stopping both the run and pass this year. You’d think they would have shored that up by now. They haven’t. And that’s bad news for a defense going up against the most-high powered offense they’ll face all year. Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and company should be able to find their groove early and scoring will be a constant theme. Look for Wilson to emerge as a legit Heisman contender following this game.

On the other side of the ball, the Huskers will score some points. Their offense is just too good to be completely contained. But it won’t be enough.

Wisconsin 40, Nebraska 23

-Sam Oleson

I, like most of Sconnie Nation, have been licking my chops since the 2011 schedule was released. Could this game be any bigger? College Game Day–coming. National spot-light–got it. Big Ten championship preview–likely. Seriously, I’m shaking just thinking about it.

Like Sam stated, it’s been well-documented that the vaunted “blackshirts” have yet to completely show up. I will counter, however, that this will be Nebraska’s first game with a completely healthy defense. And something tells me Bo Pelini’s boys won’t have much trouble getting jacked for this one. They’ll make some stops and test the Badgers, sure, but ultimately, the Badgers have too much star-power at all levels of the offense to be completely shut down. The Badgers will score, mark my words.

On the flip side, the Husker offense is none-to-shabby, themselves. Martinez and Burkhead will give the Badgers headaches. Early on, I think we’ll definitely be in store for a slug-fest as both offenses move the ball effectively. As the game draws on, though, I see the Badgers begin to pull away, forcing Martinez to go to the air. It’s here, after a Martinez mistake, that I see the Badgers putting the game on ice.

Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 28

-Mitch Larson

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska: Scouting the Cornhuskers

26 Sep

In case you didn’t know (I pray to God that isn’t actually the case), No. 7 Wisconsin (4-0) hosts No. 8 Nebraska (4-0) in the Cornhuskers’ first Big Ten game and one of the most-anticipated games in Badger football history. Not only is this the first Big Ten game for both schools this season, but it’s also a top 10 match-up that could have serious national title implications.

Moral of the story: this is a national championship elimination game for both teams.

So, here’s a scouting report for the high-powered Huskers.

Offense

Quarterback:

Using a spread option attack, Nebraska has one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The key to that specific attack, more so than many other offensive schemes across the country, is the quarterback. A system like this relies on the quarterback to make plays with his feet and if he can’t, the offense becomes extremely limited.

This is the case with Taylor Martinez and Nebraska. The way Martinez goes is the way Nebraska goes. And so far, it’s been going pretty well. The Huskers are averaging close to 43 points a game and Martinez has been the key.

He leads the team in rushing with 421 yards on just 63 attempts and has already scored seven touchdowns. If he gets out in space, he’s one of the most dangerous players in the country and Wisconsin will need to keep him bottled up. They did it to Chandler Harnish, there’s no reason to think they can’t limit Martinez as well.

And, if they can limit Martinez on the ground, it bodes well for Wisconsin. Martinez, only a sophomore, still hasn’t mastered the passing game, completing only around 50 percent of his passes this season with 647 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Running Backs:

Other than Martinez, Nebraska’s primary force on the ground is running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead, like Martinez, is having a fabulous season, rushing for 420 yards already on 63 carries with seven touchdowns.

If Martinez can’t get it going, the Huskers will rely on Burkhead to power the offense. Other than Burkhead, Braylon Heard and Aaron Green have also received a number of carries this season.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Although they don’t get a ton of action, Nebraska does have a number of receivers capable of making some big plays. Freshman Jamal Turner leads the team with 8 catches for 139 yards with a long of 43. Quincy Enunwa also has 8 receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown.

The Huskers also use the tight end, with Kyler Reed chipping in with 5 catches for 137 yards.

Although certainly not featured, Wisconsin can’t afford to sleep on this receiving corps.

Offensive Line:

Clearly, with the Huskers having already rushed for 1,090 yards as a team, the offensive line is doing a pretty good job. When Martinez has dropped back to pass however, the line has allowed 5 sacks. If Wisconsin hopes to shut down Martinez, they’ll need to penetrate this tough line.

Defense

Defensive Line:

Despite a very talented defensive line, Nebraska has been somewhat vulnerable against the run this year. Opponents are averaging 133 yards a game on the ground and if Wisconsin likes to do one thing, it’s run.

However, after missing last week against Wyoming, the Huskers get back senior defensive tackle Jared Crick, who already has 14 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 1 sack this year. Containing him will be huge.

Russell Wilson will also need to be on the lookout for defensive end Cameron Meredith, who already has 3 sacks on the year.

Linebackers:

The Nebraska linebacking corps is led by senior Lavonte David, who leads the team with 38 tackles, 2 TFL and an interception. Will Compton (True Blood, anyone?) has also had a solid season for the Huskers, contributing 22 tackles.

Defensive Backs:

This is where Nebraska has struggled on the year. They’re giving up over 216 yards passing a game and have already given up 8 touchdowns.

Wisconsin, under Wilson, has suddenly become quite potent through the air. If given time, the combinations of Wilson-Toon and Wilson-Abbrederis could have big days.

The fact is, as highly touted as the “Blackshirts” were coming into the season, they’ve been quite disappointing so far. They’re giving up 22 points and 350 yards a game and don’t look anything like the defense of last season.

If they play like they have so far, Wisconsin could easily put up 40 points on the Huskers.

Special Teams

Kicker:

Nebraska’s kicker, Brett Maher, has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He’s 8-of-9 on field goals with his only miss coming from over 50 yards.

Punter:

Did I mention Brett Maher was good? He’s also Nebraska’s punter and he may be even better here. He’s averaging 49 yards a punt and has already pinned 6 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Kick Returns:

For the most part, Ameer Abdullah has handled the return duties for the Huskers. And, he’s good. On the year, he’s averaging 42.5 yards a return and has a touchdown.

Punt Returns:

Again, Abdullah. He’s averaging 12 yards a return and has a long of 28. Look out for No. 8.

 

 

Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. South Dakota

22 Sep

As Wisconsin takes on South Dakota in their final tune-up before their showdown with Nebraska next week, they’ll need to do a couple things.

First off, they need to stay sharp. Although I can’t say I’m worried the Coyotes will pull off the upset (although they did defeat Minnesota last year), the Badgers can’t afford to play sloppy. This is their last chance to get anything fixed before they embark upon the Big Ten season. And, South Dakota won’t be coming into this game just expecting to get blown out. As probably the biggest game of many of their players’ lives, the Coyotes will be pumped up and ready to play. South Dakota has a few playmakers on both sides of the ball, so Wisconsin will need to neutralize them from the start and erase any hope.

Secondly, the Badgers need to stay healthy. If they get up big, the back-ups should come in at halftime. We don’t need Russell Wilson staying in until the fourth quarter like last week. The scheduling of South Dakota was meant for the very purpose of tuning the Badgers up for Big Ten play and any injuries would completely erase the good that comes out of this matchup.

In the end, a win is a pre-drawn conclusion, but it’s how the Badgers play and how many of their players walk off the field healthy that will determine the merit of Wisconsin’s victory on Saturday.

Prediction: Wisconsin 52, South Dakota 10

-Sam Oleson

I wrote a book on what I expected out of last week’s match-up, and frankly, it was a waste of time. In that essay-of-a-prediction I was, for the most part, completely wrong. So here I will take the opposite approach and predict the game in three sentences:

The Badgers have far more talent than the Coyotes on both sides of the ball, that much is clear. They do, however, need to address the at-times sloppy play and penalties from last week. If they do this and maintain the past efficiency of their first-team units, the back-ups should have plenty of time to shine, come Saturday.

Prediction: Wisconsin 63, South Dakota 17

-Mitch Larson

Wisconsin vs. South Dakota: Scouting the Coyotes

20 Sep

The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) take on their one and only FCS opponent of the year on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., South Dakota (2-1). The Coyotes, though an FCS squad, are a formidable team within their conference, the Great West. Although not nearly as talented as Wisconsin, as any college football fan knows, no team can take their opponent lightly. We don’t need any repeats of Appalachian State…

Here’s a quick scouting report on the Coyotes.

Offense

Quarterback:

Although their two wins—Eastern Washington and Northwestern Oklahoma State—were against a fellow FCS opponent and an NAIA foe, South Dakota has put up some points this year. They’re ranked No. 20 in the latest FCS polls and can be explosive.

Their quarterback, Dante Warren, is a dual threat. This year, he’s 34-of-60 passing for 488 yards and five touchdowns. However, he has also thrown four interceptions. The Badgers could take advantage of his inconsistency.

However, he has made up for his erratic passing with his legs. On the ground, he’s gained 185 yards on 36 carries and has scored two touchdowns.

But, if Wisconsin can pressure him like they did Chandler Harnish last week, any hope of a Coyote upset will vanish.

Running Backs:

South Dakota uses two running backs pretty heavily. Their top running back, Chris Ganious, leads the team with 187 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown.

However, the Coyotes also employ another running back, Marcus Sims. Sims has 172 yards on just 21 carries. He’s averaging over eight yards a carry and could be South Dakota’s most dangerous threat.

Similar to what the Badgers did last weekend, if they can shut down the Coyote rushing attack, it will make it much more difficult for Warren to beat them through the air.
Wide Receivers:

Through three weeks, the Coyotes have showed a number of receivers capable of making big plays.

First and foremost is Will Powell. On the year, he’s got 12 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a threat downfield and can definitely make plays if given the chance.

Two other receivers, Jeremy Blount and Dustin Nowotny, both have eight receptions and could also hurt the Badgers. Along with Powell, Blount is another player Wisconsin will have to keep an eye on, as he is averaging over 21 yards a catch and leads the team with three touchdowns.

Offensive Line:

Through three weeks, the Coyote offensive line’s performance has been a little mixed.

They’ve paved the way for over 209 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns on the ground. That is their strength.

On the other end—pass blocking—they’ve struggled. Opposing defenses have already recorded 10 sacks and Warren hasn’t had a ton of time in the pocket.

Wisconsin should look to take advantage of that.

Defense

Defensive Line:

Probably the strongest defensive unit for South Dakota, the defensive line may be the only facet of the Coyote defense that could challenge the Wisconsin offense.

Although opponents are averaging over 176 yards on the ground, the D-line has been getting great pressure on opposing QBs. They already have 10 sacks, led by defensive end Tyler Starr, who has five.

Linebackers:

This unit, though they’ll probably be successful for the rest of the season, may struggle against Wisconsin.

Along with the defensive line, they’ve contributed to the high rushing totals for opponents and also are partly responsible for some gaudy passing numbers as well.

Against an offense with running backs quicker, faster and stronger than them and tight ends with the same capabilities, they could be a unit Wisconsin picks on.

Defensive Backs:

Although this unit is giving up over 224 yards through the air and has already allowed four touchdowns, they’ve also recorded five interceptions.

Jim Thompson, their senior defensive back from Hayward, Wis., leads the team with two interceptions and may not be the best guy to pick on.

But, let’s be honest, Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis should be able to find their share of open space on Saturday.

Special Teams

Kicker:

On the year, placekicker Kevin Robb has been stellar, making all five of his field goal attempts and averaging around 59 yards on his kickoffs.

Punter:

Cole Zwiefelhofer, from Chippewa Falls, Wis., has handled the punting duties for South Dakota this season and has been outstanding. He’s averaging 42.2 yards on 13 punts and has already pinned five inside the 20-yard line.

Kick Return:

The Coyotes have used three men on kick returns this year, though receiver Jeremy Blount has received the majority of them. On six returns, he’s averaging 20.8 yards and has a long of 39.

Punt Return:

Blount also handles the punt return duties and has actually been pretty dangerous so far. He’s averaging 15.6 yards on five returns and has a long of 24. Wisconsin cannot afford to let up when he has the ball.

-Sam Oleson


Badger Offensive Report Card: Week 3

17 Sep

Admittedly, the Wisconsin Badgers did not face the greatest defense on Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Prior to their game with the Badgers, Northern Illinois had given up 26 points to Army and 45 points to Kansas. We all expected Wisconsin would have their way with the Huskies. And well, they did. Here are offensive grades.

Quarterback:

Apart from his interception in the third quarter, Russell Wilson was once again extraordinary. He finished the day 23-of-32 passing for 347 yards and three touchdowns, while also making plays with his feet, tacking on 37 yards on the ground. Working primarily from the spread during the first half, Wilson absolutely picked apart an over-matched Husky defense, as he led Wisconsin to 42 points.

Even Wilson’s back-up, Joe Brennan, played well, scoring a rushing touchdown late in the game.

Not a whole lot to complain about here.

Grade: A-

Running Backs:

As expected, Wisconsin ran all over an undersized Husky defensive line. On the day, the Badgers rushed for 266 yards as team, with Montee Ball and James White each running for 91 yards apiece. Ball scored two touchdowns, while White notched his first of the year. Melvin Gordon and Jeffrey Lewis also got in the game, running for 28 and 21 yards, respectively. Just another solid day for the Wisconsin rushing attack.

Grade: A

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

As good as the running backs looked, Wisconsin’s receivers may have been even better. They seemed completely in sync with Wilson and tore up the Husky secondary. Jared Abbrederis led the team with six receptions for 83 yards, while Nick Toon had another good game, hauling in five passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Jacob Pederson had only two catches, but he made them count. One went for 55 yards and the other was for a touchdown. He’s quietly emerging as one of the best tight ends in the country. Fullback Brady Ewing also caught four passes out of the backfield for 35 yards, while White and Ball also added a few receptions apiece.

Grade: A

Offensive Line:

It was pure domination. Plain and simple. The running lanes were huge, the pass protection was unyielding.

Grade: A

Overall: A

-Sam Oleson

 

Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois

15 Sep

The Badgers will have their hands full with Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish on Saturday.

As the Wisconsin Badgers take on their neighbors to the south at Soldier Field (italics for added effect), they’ll face a very unique challenge. Former UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren is Northern Illinois’ head coach. And he knows this team intimately. Like ‘first-name basis’ intimate. He knows the team’s strengths and weaknesses like the back of his hand. Yes, Bret Bielema changed the defensive and offensive signals, but Doeren still knows this team.

But, all that being said, the Badgers are still a much better team than the Huskies. Northern Illinois has struggled immensely on defense this year, giving up 45 points to projected Big 12 cellar-dweller Kansas last Saturday, and will be Continue reading

Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois: Scouting the Huskies

13 Sep

The No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) take on the perennial MAC powerhouse Northern Illinois Huskies (1-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Chicago at Soldier Field. Here is a quick scouting report of Northern Illinois.

Side note: If you’re looking for this game on TV, don’t bother. For the first time in five years, Wisconsin football will not be on live television. Log on to ESPN3.com to stream the game online. Hopefully you have an internet provider that has free access to this feature.

Offense

Quarterback:

As senior quarterback Chandler Harnish goes, the NIU offense goes. And so far this season, it’s been going pretty well. Already this year, Harnish is 39-of-52 passing for 510 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception. Oh, he’s Continue reading

Badger Offensive Report Card, Week 2

11 Sep

Although not quite as efficient as Week 1, the Badger offense was still impressive in their 35-0 win over Oregon State on Saturday. Here are the grades:

Quarterback: A

Can you say Heisman? Well, it is a little early. But Russell Wilson has been that good. And Saturday proved it. When Wisconsin’s running game was struggling early on, Wilson completely picked up the slack for the Badgers. He finished 17-of-21 passing on the day for 189 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Because Wisconsin’s offense is so balanced, don’t realistically expect Wilson to win the Heisman, but so far, he’s been one of the most efficient players in the nation.

Running Backs: B

Although the Badger running game got off to a very slow start against the Beavers, they really started to pick it up towards the end of the first half and into the second half. Montee Ball ended up leading the Badgers with 118 yards on 18 Continue reading

Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. Oregon State

9 Sep

After watching the efficiency and explosiveness of Wisconsin’s offense against UNLV last Thursday, it would seem almost foolish to think they would do anything less against Oregon State on Saturday. And, although the Beavers’ defense should put up a little more of a fight than UNLV, they have their share of problems, as well. After all, they just allowed 29 points and 367 yards in their stunning loss to FCS Sacramento State last week. Russell Wilson and company should have no problem putting up some big numbers once again.

Defensively, Wisconsin will be looking to improve on their performance from last week. Although allowing 17 points and almost 300 yards to UNLV isn’t terrible, it did come against an offense that is not supposed to be very good—even in the Mountain West. The Beavers have some formidable weapons in quarterback Ryan Katz (despite the fact he was benched last week), freshman running back Malcolm Agnew and wide receiver Markus Wheaton. If the Badgers can shut down this offense, it will definitely be a good sign following a somewhat uneasy performance against the Rebels.

Prediction: Wisconsin 41, Oregon State 21

-Sam Oleson

Mmmyesh, I agree on most points, Sam. I will however, add this: I predict we will see two defensive units step into Camp Randall with something to prove. Oregon State comes in after losing to an FCS team. I repreat, an FCS team. The only other BCS team to lose to an FCS last week was the perennial football juggernaut Duke–not a good football team to be grouped with, Beavers. But even in the loss last week, Oregon State scored enough and was offensively impressive enough to have won their match vs Sacramento State, but the defense ultimately lead to the Beaver’s overtime loss. Look for the Beavers to come out fired up and ready to prove themselves against the Badgers.

On the flip side, the Badger defense was labeled as the one “sour spot” in an otherwise squeaky clean performance in the opener vs UNLV. And don’t think for a minute that they didn’t hear any of the criticism. Borland, Nzegwu, and company will come out in punishing fashion on Saturday. Do I think they’ll give up a couple big plays? Yes, I do. I think the Beavers have too much speed and talent to not catch a few breaks as the Badgers continue to look for their defensive “groove”. But ultimately I think the Badgers stymie the Beavers  and work the bend-but-don’t-break defense to perfection.

Overall, this is a close game in the first half as the Beavers come out with something to prove on defense and their pesky offense runs with the Badgers over the first two quarters. However, I look for the Badgers to pull away in the second half and grind the Beavers into submission, ultimately winning in a lopsided fashion. Wilson, Ball, White and Toon are just too talented to be held down for very long against a sub-par Pac-12 defense.

Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Oregon State 14

-Mitch Larson

Wisconsin vs. Oregon State: Scouting the Beavers

6 Sep

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.

Offense

Quarterback

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.

Running Back

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Defense

Defensive Line

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.

Linebackers

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.

Defensive Backs

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.

Special Teams

Kicker

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.

Punter

Beavers punter Johnny Hekker had a good day, averaging 48.5 yards on four punts.

Kick Return

On kick returns, cornerback Malcolm Marable averaged 29 yards on three returns. He could be a threat if kickoff coverage is spotty.

Punt Return

On just two punt returns, two OSU players gained no yards.

-Sam Oleson