Well, after an interesting week, we find ourselves on the eve of Gameday once again. Your Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Wisconsin Badgers in Lincoln, in a game carried on either ABC or ESPN2 depending on where you live.
There are some interesting parallels right now between the Badgers and Huskers, and we wanted to get the skinny once again on what's going down in Madison.
We thank Andrew for his assistance, and hope you head over to B5Q to check out their coverage before and after the game.
1) Trying times for both schools, as the Badgers come off a loss at Camp Randall to Iowa last weekend. What’s the mood of the Wisconsin fanbase heading into this one?
It's what happens after every rivalry loss. The quarterback is a finely-coiffed garbage monster who has the mobility of a morbidly obese man and the accuracy of a weather forecast. The sky is falling. The world is ending. Panic switches flipped as far as the eye can see.
2) Joel Stave has been at Wisconsin seemingly longer than Taylor Martinez was in Lincoln. Knowing he may have to throw for a victory Saturday, what’s the confidence level on Joel right now?
The most optimistic are thinking Stave will be okay if the Badgers have to throw this weekend. The Badgers receiving corps, which has been a one man army since Nick Toon graduated might be down it's #1receiver this week and the Badgers will be without Austin Traylor at tight end. Someone is going to need to step up and be a target for Stave to throw to.
3) With no Corey Clement, the Badgers have had to depend on Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale in the backfield. With the injuries to the OL and TE’s as well, is this close to the rushing attack the Badgers have had, or not at all?
It's a bit of a mess. Between the offensive line not having much of an opportunity to develop a cohesion and the Badgers using a back that, while gaining confidence, is not threatening to usurp Corey Clement while being in a time share with a solid third down back, this has definitely been problematic. Upside? Someone who was higher on the preseason depth chart in Beau Benzschawel looks like he's healthy and ready for action. It's another new line-up, but it should help.
4. Alex Erickson is going through the concussion protocol, but would be a big loss for Wisconsin if he can’t go versus the worst Pass D in FBS. What’s there is Erickson can’t suit up?
Interestingly, while there is going to be concern, there are pieces that can step up and fill in the gaps. Robert Wheelwright has had problems with drops over the past couple of weeks, but he has also shown flashes of brilliance. He gets going early, that's an answer. Another in the limited by injury parade is preseason breakout candidate Troy Fumagalli. He had three catches in the Iowa game and will likely get most of what was going to go to Traylor.
5. For some, the Wisconsin D is no joke, only giving up double digits twice, one being the beatdown that Alabama put down in Arlington. Does the thought of taking on Tommy Armstrong Jr and (arguably) the best Wideouts group in the Conference worry you? Or is that a challenge?
This is probably going to be the answer that has some fan daring to call me an arrogant jerk, but barring injury this a challenge most Badger fans are sure they can win. There are three talented seniors in Darius Hillary, versatile giant athlete Tanner McEvoy, and 5th linebacker Michael Caputo. Sojourn Shelton has shown his freshman form, and Leo Musso has finally seen the field despite being talented enough to almost beat out Caputo in 2013. And with a defense, and more specifically Joe Schobert being able to generate all sorts of pressure, it's either going to have to be really quick checkdowns or a test of the Badgers current depth where you're going to be able to get consistent movement through the air.
6. Is having Paul Chryst as the HC instead of Gary Andersen making people feel comfortable with Wisconsin Football locally? It seemed like, from an outsider’s view, Anderson just wasn’t welcomed by the whole program and fanbase.
I liked Andersen more than most. He was able to get the Badgers in races that Bielema wouldn't dare try and he had an ability to evaluate a sleeper prospect well. That said, there were points of weirdness that you just were not going to be able to overcome. Between the square peg of Tanner McEvoy as your quarterback, the secret interview for the Browns head coaching job, the secretive nature with the media with Joel Stave and Melvin Gordon, the honeymoon was gone before the Big Ten Title Game.
Add to that his seeming disregard for the Badgers admissions standards becoming more intricate (and you're welcome for Jordan Stevenson by the way), and you have a coach who just didn't fit. With Chryst, you have someone who knows how to leave a good defensive coordinator alone, and will at least attempt to game plan an offense to its talents, and who has clear eyes when it comes to the academic aspects. There's definitely a better fit here.
7. How many folks from Madison will be making the trek from the North to Lincoln for this weekend’s game?
We travel. I don't expect it to be newsworthy in number. But you will get a contingent coming.
8. Tell us about anyone that we haven’t talked about above, that should make an impact Saturday.
The passing game has been more of a situation where you take whatever's open and throw it to that guy. And if the worst case scenario occurs and the Badgers are without Alex Erickson as well as Traylor? You will see the Badgers throw it to RB2 Dare Ogbunwale and Fullback Derek Watt. Also, remember that Vince Biegel is the Badgers returning leader in sacks and tackles for loss from last season. He's on the other side of Schobert, and he's talented enough to make you pay for running away from him.
9. Alright, prediction time. Who keeps their slim B1G West hopes alive with a win Saturday?