Wisconsin Positional Breakdown Preview
WNUR’s Nick Scoliard breaks down the Wisconsin Badgers position-by-position to preview their match-up on Saturday with the Northwestern Wildcats.
After a brutal, heartbreaking loss to Ohio State, the Wildcats journey to Wisconsin to play the defending Big Ten Champion Badgers. Though Northwestern is ranked 19th and Wisconsin doesn’t appear in the rankings, the Wildcats are more than 10 point underdogs. How can this be? I’ll breakdown why this will be just as hard a test as Ohio State for the Wildcats.
Thankfully, the Wildcats only have to worry about one quarterback this week. Unfortunately, that quarterback is Joel Stave. In the beginning of the season, people were calling for his benching in favor of sixth-year senior Curt Phillips, especially after a controversial loss to Arizona St. However, Stave emerged against the Buckeyes defense going 20 for 34, with 295 yards, two TDs and one INT. He seemed perfectly measured against a tough Buckeyes defense at the Horseshoe. After a bye week, he looks to carve through the inexperienced Wildcats secondary. The pass rush will need to do much better than they were against Miller. The good thing about Stave is that the ‘Cats will not have to worry about his legs; he hasn’t had one rush yet this year. Hopefully this will allow the defensive line to get a more consistent pass rush instead of worrying about the quarterback running out of the pocket at any time.
This will be the true test for the ‘Cats. After allowing 248 yards to the Buckeyes, the ‘Cats will need to worry about the best running back tandem in the nation: Melvin Gordon and James White. Nationally, Gordon and White rank 6th and 29th in yards with 698 and 473 yard respectively. Even crazier is their yards per carry stats. Gordon is 2nd in the nation with 10.3 yards per carry, trailing only Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk by .8 YPC. The next closest running back is 1.3 YPC behind Gordon. White is ranked 26th on the list with 6.9 YPC which is the third best on the team. Yes, you read that right. Wisconsin has 3 rushers above 6.9 YPC while the best one on the ‘Cats, Treyvon Green, has 6.7 YPC. White and Gordon have a combined 11 TDs, and adding in third stringer Corey Clement gives the Badgers running backs 16 touchdowns between them. The good news – this may be a product of who they played. The Buckeyes stopped the duo at 105 yards and 1 TD, which is only 1 yard more than the Buckeyes allowed for the ‘Cats, and the same amount of TDs. The Badgers don’t run the option, but rather more traditional power runs, sweeps and counter treys. The Wildcats defense will be thankful they no longer have to worry about the quarterback on run plays, which should lead to an advantage – although against these runners, we will see how much of an advantage it really is.
The Wisconsin receiving corps consists of two people – Jared Abbrederis and everyone else. Abbrederis has 572 yards on 33 receptions, while everyone else has 515 yards in 49 receptions. Abbrederis has four TDs while everyone else has four TDs, spread among four different people. Their next best receiving option is White, who has amassed 131 yards in 15 receptions. Abbrederis is the king of the show here, and don’t expect that to change during this game. He had 207 yards against Ohio State, so expect big numbers from him. Nick VanHoose will 100 percent no doubt be on Abbrederis, and they might even stick Ibraheim Campbell or Traveon Henry as a double or some deep help. No matter who is on him, he will be targeted throughout the game; the key for the ‘Cats is to stop him at all costs.
Wisconsin’s defense has been stout so far, allowing only 14.6 points per game. This may be due to the fact they had 2 shutouts against a MAC and an OVC team(Ohio Valley Conference…I had to look it up) that are combined 3-8. They then held basement dweller Purdue to 10 points. In their two losses, they let up 858 yards, yet only let up 505 yards in their three wins. Their losses came to much better teams, so again it seems that Wisconsin’s numbers may be skewed for their opponents. The Wildcats will hope to bounce back from their abysmal running game last week and pound the Wisconsin front seven. The last time the Badgers saw the option game against Ohio State, they let up 192 yards. Against Arizona State, also an option team, they gave up 148 yards rushing, so it seems like mobile quarterbacks work well against them. They also let up 352 yards passing to ASU and 198 yards passing to OSU, so they have issues balancing their offense when the option comes out. Look for Colter to capitalize, and use a revitalized Venric Mark to break the Badgers defense and open up the passing lanes.
The X-factor for the Badgers is obviously Camp Randall Stadium. This is one of the biggest and loudest stadiums in college football, comparable to the Big House and The Horseshoe. It has 80,000 crazed fans, and unlike Ryan field, it fills up with home fans. While Northwestern had success last year at the Big House in a close loss to Michigan, expect the crowd to factor into this game a lot. Northwestern is used to it at Ryan Field, as Fitz had the team practice with a silent count going into the Ohio State game, a home game, but it will still be a disruptive force for the ‘Cats to overcome.