Tag Archives: Big Ten

Four Big Things vs Nebraska: Day Two

28 Sep

What does the “N” on the side of Nebraska’s helmet stand for? Knowle–err, never mind. I did, you know, promise myself I wouldn’t make any Husker jokes this week. But man, it’s been tough…

Anyways, all sad attempts at humor aside, let’s jump right into it. Yesterday we discussed how important it will be for the Badgers to contain Taylor Martinez. For today’s Big Thing we turn our focus back over to Wisconsin’s offense.

The Big Uglies: Wisconsin’s Offensive Line

Russell Wilson gets all the media attention. James White slashes defenses and Montee Ball is a scoring juggernaut. And nobody gets a stadium to scream in unison like Nick Toon. But what these play-makers have in common is that all of their success starts in the trenches with the offensive line.

Week One of the NFL saw three of last year’s Wisconsin offensive lineman start for professional teams. A pretty amazing stat. What makes it more amazing? So far, this year’s version of the Badgers haven’t seen much of a drop off. Yet. Gabe Carimi played phenomenally last year against elite B1G players like Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State’s Cam Heyward. This upcoming game against the Huskers will once again test the Badgers. Nebraska’s Jared Crick is a monster-of-a-man and Wisconsin’s interior lineman will have their hands full.

With Nebraska’s secondary being its biggest concern (so far, at least) look for the Badgers to once again feature a very balanced air vs ground attack–but one that’s willing to take some deeper shots at the Huskers. This means it’s going to be crucial for the offensive line to hold its own pass-blocking the Huskers as wide-outs work longer routs. Protecting Wilson must be paramount. Also look for Nebraska to bring some of their talented linebackers on a variety of twists and stunts to attempt to slow down the Badgers.

But let’s not forget about that running game. And oh yeah, the Badger running backs are only as effective as their blockers up front.

So the Badger offensive linemen will have their hands full as they face their first real challenge of the year. Between run-blocking for Ball and White, slowing down Crick and Company, and picking up the Huskers’ very athletic linebacking corps, the Badgers’ Big Uglies–as the coaching staff calls them–will have quite the hand in how the Badgers fare on Saturday. Here’s to hoping they’re up for the challenge. That is all.

Go in peace, Badger fans. May the force of Carimi and Moffit be with you.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

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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

Around the B1G: Big Ten Week 3 Predictions

16 Sep

Predicting each Big Ten match-up one sentence at a time.

Eastern Michigan vs Michigan

Shoelace, fresh off his new Twitter account,  shines as he wows new followers. Premature Heisman hash-tag mania ensues.

Final score: Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 9

Penn State vs Temple

Post-Alabama hangover and Temple’s running game give Lions fits as Joe Pa’s farewell tour picks up momentum.

Final Score: Temple 28, Penn State 20

Pitt vs Iowa

Vengeance is on the mind as Pitt faces the Hawkeyes at the wrong time. Damn you, Iowa State…

Final Score: Iowa 37, Pitt 17

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The Russell Wilson Effect

5 Jul

Paul Chryst got a new toy this year. And Big Ten defenses beware: somewhere, right now, he’s salivating as he figures out how to use it.

Arguably Bret Bielema’s biggest win in the offseason was keeping Chryst, the Badgers’ offensive coordinator, out of Austin, Texas and in Madison. And after a quick glance at the Longhorn’s depth chart compared to Wisconsin’s returning offensive talent, I think Chryst may have a little more fun in the Badger State, this year.

And that brings us to Bielema offseason win #2: Russell Wilson.

Wilson comes to Madtown with a decorated ACC resume. And despite the fact that most Big Ten fans like to look down on “basketball conferences” like the ACC, Wilson’s gaudy stats speak for themselves. This kid can play. Just check out this video and see for yourself.

I hope the thought of that, but with a Motion W on the helmet, gave you chills.

Now, it remains to be seen IF Russell Wilson can bring that level of play to Camp Randall and it’ll be very interesting to see how quickly Wilson can adjust to smash-mouth Big Ten football.  What’s obvious, though, is that Wilson possesses a skill-set that hasn’t been seen under center in Madison for a long, long time.

If Wilson adjusts to and thrives under Wisconsin’s offense, Chryst continues to schematically create nightmares for opposing defenses, White and Ball shred defenses, Nick Toon plays like we all know he can, and Borland sparks a very good Badger defense, we could be looking at another special year in the Badger Nation. I know those are a lot of ifs, but the truth is, those things are far from being unrealistic.

With the buzz created from the 2010 campaign, and more recently, with the addition of Russell Wilson, Wisco has been getting a lot of love from the so-called “experts.” But I’m going to go a little bit farther. I’m going to say that the hype that has been generated this offseason is part of something bigger, something on a broader scale. I think the nation is ready to see Wisconsin replace OSU as the Big Ten’s top player in the college football landscape.

Uff-da. That can’t settle well with tOSU faithful. But with Wisco’s recent success and the widely publicized happenings in Columbus, it’s hard to argue against.

Who has the most prime-time televised games in the Big Ten this year? Wisconsin.

Who are most pundits picking to win the Leaders Division? Wisconsin.

Who are a lot of people predicting to take the Big Ten’s first championship game? Wisconsin.

Who beat out the defending national champion and, dare I say it, an SEC team, for Russell Wilson? Again, Wisconsin.

I’m not saying that the Badgers will waltz into the Big Ten Championship game unscathed and leave with their tickets punched for Pasadena, but I am saying that the retention of Paul Chryst, the signing of Russell Wilson, and the growing perception of Wisconsin football definitely has the Badgers moving in the right direction as a Big Ten powerhouse.

The stage has been set, Wisconsin. Now don’t squander the chance.

-Mitch Larson

From Red to…Red: Russell Wilson Officially a Badger

27 Jun

Well Badger fans, it’s official. After months of speculation following dismal quarterback performances at April’s annual spring game and the announcement that North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson was transferring, the Wisconsin Badgers have a quarterback for the 2011 season. And, as many news outlets had been predicting, it is indeed the former signal-caller for the Wolfpack.

Wilson, who for the last three years was under center in the ACC, will be heading to Madison and the Big Ten in the hopes of leading the Badgers to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances.

After being replaced as the NCSU starting quarterback because of his commitment to his professional baseball career, it appears as though Wilson will again put that part of his life on hold. Following a two-day visit to the UW campus, Wilson will be trading in his N.C. State red for Wisconsin cardinal.

So, it’s real. Russell Wilson will be a Badger for the 2011 season.

But, what will he actually do for Wisconsin? Can he replace the departed Scott Tolzien and match or improve on the 11-2 season Wisconsin posted last year?

Let’s take a quick glance at Wilson.

Standing 5-11, Wilson does not have the ideal size for a Big Ten quarterback. Big Ten offensive lineman (especially in Wisconsin’s case) are huge and it’s essential for a quarterback to be able to see down the field. Wilson will be shorter than every single one of his lineman.

But, unlike Tolzien (who stood an impressive 6-3), Wilson has scrambling ability and is more than comfortable moving out of the pocket. Then, it doesn’t really matter how tall you are. If you can dodge defenders while still looking downfield, size matters little.

In three years at N.C. State, Wilson tossed 76 touchdowns and just 26 interceptions. In fact, in statistically his worst year, Wilson threw 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season while still leading the Wolfpack to a bowl win. On the other hand, Tolzien, considered by many to be one of Wisconsin’s best quarterbacks, threw 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in two years as a starter. Not exactly Heisman-esque.

Now, of course, the Badgers ran the ball much, much more than N.C. State. And, unless coach Bret Bielema completely alters Wisconsin’s game plan to match Wilson’s skills, there is no way Wilson will throw as much as he did the previous three years. That said, it’s pretty obvious Wilson has passing skills not seen by Wisconsin fans in years.

With the signing of Wilson, Wisconsin becomes the odds-on favorite to win the Leaders Division in the Big Ten. As Terrelle Pryor is no longer a Buckeye, Ohio State will, for the first time in a decade, play second fiddle to Wisconsin to begin a season.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wilson will bring the talent and experience that Wisconsin hasn’t had at the quarterback position in maybe…ever. But, he’s not a savior.

The rushing attack, led by James White and Montee Ball, will still be key to Wisconsin taking the Big Ten. Wilson, if he can be as efficient and protective of the ball as Tolzien, will be vital to any success the Badgers have. Yes, he’ll bring a passing option that Wisconsin hasn’t seen in years. But to think that he’ll be airing it out all year would be foolish.

In the end, for one year at least, Wilson could be one of the best quarterbacks in school history. He’s certainly a better option that Jon Budmayr, who, as the spring game indicated, needs another year learning the system before he’ll be capable of taking over the Wisconsin offense. But, he won’t put up the ridiculous numbers be put up in the ACC, not only because the Big Ten features much better defenses, but simply because the Badgers run a much more ground-oriented attack.

If he can match the production of Scott Tolzien in 2010, he’ll be worth all the buzz he’s currently receiving.