BY JEFF BERNIERThe Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) seem to be biding their time prior to conference play beginning in just two weeks, taking care of business against both Miami (Ohio) and Troy after their solid effort versus Alabama in week one.
The Badgers final pre-conference-play test will come against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-1) this Saturday night (7:00 pm Central) from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.
The team received some unfavorable news this week when it was announced star running back Corey Clement will now be out four to six weeks due to sports hernia surgery. Clement has not played a snap since week one against Alabama, sidelined with a groin issue.
It’s a good thing the Badgers have this guy named Joel Stave. The senior has been brilliant thus far, powering Wisconsin with a robust and diverse passing attack; a strange site in the Capitol after years of dominating opponents on the ground. This allows for far more options from the team’s playbook.
“We’ve done a good job at pushing the chains a little bit and get bigger runs on first down,” Stave said Monday. “In doing that, you open up your playbook.”
Stave has been even more impressive inside opponent territory, racking up 227 yards and six touchdowns versus no interceptions when throwing inside the opponent 40-yard line.
Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal will now continue to shoulder the load in the Badgers ground game. Seen as temporary fill-ins, the tandem will now be counted on well into conference play. The two have combined for 339 yards rushing in three games.
Look for the pair, as well as Stave, to have a big day. The Rainbow Warriors have allowed a staggering 381 yards per game to their opponents.
Hawaii senior quarterback Max Wittek is coming off one of his best games as a collegiate, throwing for a career high 272 yards at a nearly 71% completion rate. Wittek also threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Junior wide receiver Marcus Kemp is a player to watch. The six-foot-4 Kemp will be a tough matchup for the Badgers, coming off a five reception 119 yard effort in Hawaii’s 47-27 victory over UC-Davis last week.
Opposing Ogunbowale and Deal on the ground for Hawaii will be running back Paul Harris. The junior is also coming off a brilliant effort last week, racking up 141 yards on just 11 carries.
The Badgers run defense has been dominant so far this season, so Harris will have to earn his keep.
Hawaii is seen as a very physical, hard-hitting team. Badgers head coach Paul Chryst has seen the game tape. He knows what to expect when the Rainbow Warriors suit up at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday night.
“I think it’s one of their strengths,” said Chryst. “I think they’re a team that loves the physical part of the game and they’ve got some guys that — I think their schemes play to that and I think they’ve got some really good football players.”
Wisconsin leads the all-time series against Hawaii five games to one.
Saturday night’s game will mark just the second time the Rainbow Warriors have every played in Madison.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Hawaii 14
Game time: Saturday, September 19, 7:00 PM CT on BTN, BTN2; Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI (Buy Tickets)