1) How did Wisconsin's season go?
How was Wisconsin's season? It was all good about a week ago. Then Ohio State happened. Now it feels like most of the good that was done got wiped out. Getting swaggerjacked to a point where it was 59-0 and you know it should have been worse tends to do that.
Honestly, and you might be shocked to hear this, the Badgers are better than that. Melvin Gordon is as good as people say, and if the play-calling isn't just 25 runs between the tackles (and we've had issues with Andy Ludwig long before last Saturday so it just might be), you're likely gonna give up at least 150 yards and 1 score. It's just how it goes. Otherwise, while you're looking at an offense that is at the very least similar in how the plays are split from the end of 2003 and 2005 match-ups. Defensively? The Badgers are a lot more aggressive. The linebacking crew and safety Michael Caputo will make a lot of plays.
2) What should we know about Wisconsin's offense in terms of scheme, personnel, etc?
If I could describe the offensive scheme in a word it's multiple. They use multiple quarterbacks. Joel Stave is the maligned mercurial man who will take most of the snaps. He's not a mobile dude, but he's the closest thing the Badgers have to a passing threat. There are days when he's good, the deep ball is pretty, and Alex Erickson and Sam Arneson have good days catching it. But his six interceptions this season came in two games. So that's fun. He teams with the mobile Tanner McEvoy. I say this because despite the fact it's shown Tanner McEvoy is pretty accurate throwing it short and on the run? He's thrown one pass in the last five games. So basically the offense has a tendency that is that stupidly obvious.
Continuing the multiple theme is the fact that unless Melvin Gordon really gets rolling early, there's going to be no reason for him to keep eating carries, so expect his backup Corey Clement to get 10 to 15 carries. Clement is a thumper and a lot quicker than one would think. With there being literally no tomorrow, the Badgers will probably give more thought to a package that will have both of them on the field at the same time.
The passing game? Well, suffice it to say that if you get it up to a three score lead sometime in the second half, you probably have this. Alex Erickson's got soft hands and runs good routes, but he's a tailor made number two, Sam Arneson's been underused all year, and expect that to continue. After that? It's the running backs and a buncha guys averaging a catch or less per game. The best thing you said about the Badgers in the preseason regarding the passing game was, "hey, these Freshmen are pretty good," and they no showed. It's kind of why Air Force has roughly as many passing yards as the Badgers.
(Insert your well then you must be good because you pass as well as the Air Force joke here lol).
The line is as good as advertised, though if you have a front four of quick penetrators you can get early stops;. It's been a problem for the Badgers all year. And they keep running headlong into it. Also, and forgive me for sounding as didactic as a color commentator, you can get to the quarterback on a pass rush. The Badgers 12 sacks allowed are basically because they want to run the ball 50 times a game.
3) And the defense?
Defensively, it's a scheme that's predicated on pressure from all angles and getting to the quarterback before he can make a play through the air. It mostly works. The linebackers have made a lot of plays, and while Michael Caputo does lead the team in tackles, it's because he plays more like a fifth linebacker than a pure safety. It was the injuries to the defensive line that got LSU past the Badgers, and an injured defense faced Northwestern. The problems come when two things occur.
One, the defense has to step up and make open field plays, which was a problem the last three weeks of the regular season. And yeah, if Iowa starts gashing your defense, the Doyle Brunson of modern college football offense has a reason to hope. Especially if Nick Marshall does Nick Marshall things and the Badgers only get one or two sacks. Because let's be honest, this is still a defense of players that mostly came from the last guy. If that dreaded SEC SPEED comes into play anywhere, it's probably from a Marshall spinning out of a sack attempt and going over the top of one of our cornerbacks for six.
Also, most Badger fans are worried that they'll play most of the game in some semblance of a 2-4 Defense. Konrad Zagzebski got hurt again in the Big Ten title game, and the Badgers have been thin at the defensive line all year. That said, the formation been roughly as effective as jokes about Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend in this day and age. I mean, the Badgers should be able to have a good day against you and your run game. But this feels like a stupid tendency.
4) Will Wisconsin travel well to the game in Tampa?
The Badgers do have the stereotype of traveling well, but they've made multiple trips to Tampa, and coming off of a 59-0 beatdown and facing another great offense? I would bet dollars to donuts that a story's going to emerge that the Badgers tickets for the game isn't selling well.
5) Do you have any early predictions?
No. I mean, Auburn gets more points and Wisconsin gets less. But if you're looking for numbers, I'm gonna have to feel less sad about the last game before I can bring it.