Category Archives: Game Preview

Preview: Wisconsin Badgers Host Northwestern Wildcats

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

The injury bug hasn’t just bitten the Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) this season, it has burrowed into them and feasted. All season long, the Badgers have been decimated by injuries. The picture becomes a little clearer on Saturday as offensive minded tight end Austin Traylor and star running back Corey Clement are expected back when Wisconsin hosts the streaking Northwestern Wildcats (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten).

While Northwestern does head into their matchup with the Badgers on a three game winning streak, there are some questions about the legitimacy of the Wildcats #20 national ranking. The three game winning streak came after an 0-2 stretch that saw them lose to both Michigan and Iowa by a combined score of 78-10.

How they perform will go a long way in determining the Wildcats stay amongst the 25 nationally ranked teams. Ditto for the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin does have the same record as Northwestern but sports a better conference record.

Despite allowing 24 points two weeks ago in their matchup at Maryland, the Badgers feature one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. Before the hiccup at College Park, the Badgers were allowing just 11 points per game to their opponents.

Northwestern, who has struggled mightily in recent weeks in terms of their aerial attack, will need a spirited effort from its freshman quarterback to have a shot in Madison on Saturday.

Clayton Thorson is just 14/27 for 140 yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception over his last two games. He remains a threat to run however averaging over 6 yards per carry over those same two games.

The ground is where the game will probably have to be won for Northwestern. No small feat considering the Badgers run defense is one of the most dominant in the country. Wildcats tailback Justin Jackson is third in the conference in rushing with 1,033 yards on the season, averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry. The sophomore has racked up 302 of those yards in his last three games.

With Corey Clement back in the fold for Wisconsin, the Badgers have the clear advantage from the half back position heading into Saturday afternoon’s matchup. Dare Ogunbowale has done a fine job filling in for the oft-injured Clement. Alec Ingold, the Badgers goal-line weapon has too helped ease the pain of Clement’s absences.

Badgers senior quarterback Joel Stave will also benefit from the return of Clement, as he seems to be more comfortable with Clement in the game. It also provides Stave with another weapon through the air as Clement has become more adept at catching passes out of the backfield and turning them into net gains.

The way football games used to be won back in the day was pound the ball on the ground, play smash mouth defense while winning the field position game with solid special teams play. This old school style will be the key to victory for either team Saturday.

Turnovers will also be a key factor. Both teams take pretty good care of the football, but the Badgers defense turns other teams over at a spectacular rate, so the Wildcats will have to protect the football to have a shot. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald believes it to be the biggest key to his team’s success.

“Don’t turn the ball over. That’s the bottom line,” said Fitzgerald.

The Badgers, who have made a name for themselves in how dominant they have been running the football in recent years, have found ways to win this season throwing the football. And that is a credit to Joel Stave, who despite missing three quarters of the game at Illinois, has been one of the few constants for Wisconsin and company this season.

His steady if unspectacular play from the quarterback position has not been lost on Pat Fitzgerald, who knows he’ll have to game plan for Stave just as much as Clement and Ogunbowale.

“Been really impressed by Joel. I think he’s really had a terrific season,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s had to shoulder a lot with the running back situation with guys being out … tight ends being out. But Joel has been the one consistent, really impressive aspect of what they’re doing offensively.”

Wisconsin defeated Northwestern 35-6 in their most recent matchup October 12, 2013.

The home team has won the last eight matchups in the Badgers meetings with the Wildcats.

Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 9

Game time: Saturday, November 21, 2:30 PM on BTN, BTN2; Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI

Preview: Maryland Terrapins Host Wisconsin Badgers

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

 

The Wisconsin Badgers (7-2) will matchup with the Maryland Terrapins (2-6) at Capitol One Field from College Park, Maryland. The game will feature two teams heading in opposite directions. The Badgers are looking to continue rolling to victories despite being decimated by injuries. The Terrapins are looking for their first conference win of the year.

Wisconsin is making its case for having one of the greatest defensive units in the program’s history. This group leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 11 points per game. If you take away the Alabama game, the group is surrendering just 8 points per game. The Badgers defense will be facing a Terrapins offense that is wildly inconsistent and features nearly no true playmakers.

The Badgers will have to deal with Maryland quarterback Perry Hills, who will be just the second mobile quarterback the Badgers defense will have played against this season. The other, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, ran for 50 yards and a score. Despite his mobility, Hills has more interceptions than touchdowns on the year, 10 to 7.

Maryland senior running back Brandon Ross has run for 520 yards on the season, averaging an impressive 5.5 yards per tote. Maryland actually is averaging over 30 more yards per game on the ground than the Badgers. The Terrapins will have their hands full however, facing one of the best rushing defenses in the country in Wisconsin.

Outside of Hills and Ross, this is absolute nightmare of a matchup for Maryland.

The Badgers defense, which excels at getting turnovers, will face the most turnover prone team in the country. That’s right; the Terrapins are dead last in turnovers, leading the nation with 28. 20 of those turnovers have come in the team’s last five games, with nine in their last two games played.

Wisconsin’s defense also ranks fifth nationally in pass defense efficiency. Maryland’s offense is second to last in pass efficiency. If games were won and lost on paper, Maryland would be wise to simply forfeit this one.

Star running back Corey Clement returned last week in the Badgers drubbing of Rutgers. Despite just 11 touches, Clement made the most of them, racking up 115 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite not being 100%, Clement provides the Badgers a true top shelf playmaker. Simply put, Wisconsin is a better team with Clement, even if he is performing at only 80%.

Badgers senior quarterback Joel Stave, who has been steady this season, will look to crack 2,000 yards passing Saturday afternoon in College Park. Stave enters the game with 1,974 yards and nine touchdowns. His seven interceptions are somewhat of a concern, but the majority of them have come with the game already well in hand for the Badgers.

Senior wide receiver Alex Erickson continues to be the man for Wisconsin. A veteran of the Badgers offensive scheme, Erickson leads the team with 58 receptions and 748 receiving yards. His 58 catches are the most through nine games in Wisconsin Badgers history.

Wisconsin is still holding out hope of a chance at the Big Ten Championship game. For this to happen, Iowa will have to slip up, possibly twice. The Badgers will have to control what they can control, scoreboard watching notwithstanding. And that control will continue Saturday against Maryland. The game kicks off at 2:30 Central.

Prediction: Wisconsin 42, Maryland 6

Game time: Saturday, November 7, 2:30 PM on BTN, BTN2; Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD

Preview: Wisconsin Badgers Host Rutgers Scarlet Knights

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

The banged-up Wisconsin Badgers (6-2) will welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-3) to Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday for a morning matchup. Suffering from a seemingly never-ending rash of injuries, the Badgers will try to fend off a competitive Rutgers team hungry for a statement win.

Rutgers has a tough two game swing starting this weekend in Madison, and next week where they’ll travel to the Big House to face a big time Michigan team. They know it won’t be easy, and they don’t expect it to be.

“It’s not supposed to be easy. I don’t want it to be easy,” Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa said. “I want to see how I measure against the best out there and that’s what it’s about.”

The Badgers injuries have not since stopped since star running back Corey Clement went down after the Alabama game. The latest victim was center Badgers center Dan Voltz who some say is the best player on this talented Wisconsin offensive line.

The Badgers will also be without one of their top receiving weapons in Robert Wheelwright. The junior will miss several weeks after the injury that knocked him out of last week’s game against Illinois.

Senior quarterback Joel Stave, who missed the final three quarters of the Badgers win at Illinois last week, went through and passed all the concussion protocol this week. He will be the starter Saturday, despite a surprisingly effective day for backup Bart Houston a week ago.

Stave, who has been steady, will be a key cog Saturday for a Badgers team having to throw it a lot more than in recent seasons. Corey Clement remains questionable for the game.

The Badgers have averaged only 152.5 yards rushing per game this year. That’s good enough for just 11th in the 14-team Big Ten.

The Badgers, who are now Bowl eligible, know that all teams deal with injuries and that no one is going to feel sorry for them. Just ask head coach Paul Chryst.

“We’re not the only team in the country. But we’ve had our fair share,” said Chryst. “They just keep plugging away. I give our players a lot of credit.”

The Badgers will have to contain Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano who despite struggling of late, leads the Big Ten in completion percentage (67.2%).

The best running back talent this Saturday may come in the form of the Badgers opponent, something that is not usually a concern for Wisconsin. Rutgers tailback Paul James has averaged a spectacular 9.6 yards per carry over his team’s last three games. James, who tore his ACL last year, has indeed made a full recovery and will be one of the toughest challenges for this outstanding Wisconsin run defense.

The Badgers rank eighth in the entire nation in run defense, giving up just 97.3 yards per game. And if you take away the thrashing that came at the hands of Alabama, the Badgers are giving up a paltry 77 yards per game.

Third down efficiency has been the focus of late for the Badgers and they will need to continue their solid conversion rate to come away with another win Saturday. The Badgers have converted 53 percent of their third downs over the last two games; this after converting on just 39 percent over their first six.

Prediction: Wisconsin 17, Rutgers 10

Game time: Saturday, October 31, 11:00 AM CT on BTN, BTN2Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI

Preview: Wisconsin Badgers Go on the Road to Face the Illinois Fighting Illini

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
When the Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) travel to Champagne, Illinois Saturday to take on the Fighting Illini ( 4-2, 1-1 Big Ten), it’ll mark the first time in a quite a while where the game will mean this much to both teams.

The Badgers will need a big road win in order to keep pace with Big Ten leading Iowa. The Fighting Illini, despite canning their head football coach less than a week before the season even began, are also in the running.

Despite facing an abnormal amount of injuries this season, the Badgers have been able to hang their hat on their outstanding defense to win ball games. Wisconsin currently ranks seventh nationally in total defense, giving up just 272.4 yards per game. Wisconsin has also only given up 10.9 points per game, with only 2 of their 7 opponents thus far being able to score more than 10 points in a game against them.

Current Illinois head football coach Bill Cubit knows the challenges his team’s offense will face when they line up against Wisconsin on Saturday.

“The Edge guys and their linebackers are so active,” Cubit said. “They’ll find out what your protection is and they’ll find a way to get their best player on your worst player.”

Illinois is no slouch defensively either, as the Fighting Illini rank 30th nationally in total team defense, allowing only 332.5 yards per contest.

The Badgers are hoping to get a big boost from their star running back Corey Clement, who hasn’t played a down since the opening game at Alabama. Clement will be a game time decision for the Badgers.

Despite missing arguably their most valuable offensive player for much of this season, the Badgers have still had a good enough run game to where opponents must game plan for that part of Wisconsin’s attack.

Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal have filled in nicely for the Badgers, combining for over 800 yards and eight scores through seven games.

If Clement cannot go Saturday, look for the Badgers to continue to pass the football. Senior quarterback Joel Stave is having a fine senior season. Stave has completed 62.3% of his passes while on pace for a 3,000 yard season. Senior #1 receiver Alex Erickson comes into the game with 42 receptions for 549 yards, but just one touchdown. He and junior Robert Wheelwright, who leads the Badgers with three touchdown receptions, remain the favorite targets for Stave.

Wisconsin ranks fourth in the Big Ten, averaging 251 passing yards per game. After Clement went down with injury, Stave knew he’d be relied on much more within the Badgers offense.

“I knew we would have to throw it a little more,” noted Stave. “We’d have to be more balanced.”

Illinois will for sure be without its star tailback Josh Ferguson. The senior, who will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury, has ran for nearly five and a half yards per carry. The Fighting Illini are very thin at running back. Freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn will assume much of the load Saturday where he will face one of the best run-stopping defenses in the country in Wisconsin.

Illinois is just 1-9 against Wisconsin in their last 10 meetings. The lone win came in 2007, a 31-26 upset in a season that saw the Fighting Illini make it to the Rose Bowl.

Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 13

Game time: Saturday, October 17, 2:30 PM CT on BTN, BTN2Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL

Preview: Wisconsin Badgers Host Purdue Boilermakers

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Heading into their third week of conference play, it is clear that Wisconsin isn’t getting soft-toss matchups like Hawaii, Troy, or Miami (OH) anymore. Looking like a well-oiled machine pre-conference, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-2) offense has sputtered over the first two conferences games.

Star running back Corey Clement continues to be sidelined while he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

The best cure of not-so-good offense is an abysmal defense and that is exactly what the Badgers will be up against early on Saturday when they host the Boilermakers of Purdue (1-5). Purdue is surrendering 215.2 rushing yards per game, including a whopping 326 last week in their 41-13 loss to Minnesota.

In last week’s thrilling victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Badgers simply could not get the running game rolling through the game’s first three quarters. But as they say, persistence pays, and the fourth quarter was a completely different story. Instead of abandoning the run game, as teams on every level are quick to do, Wisconsin remained steadfast.

Dare Ogunbowale had runs of 15, 32, and 12 yards as the Badgers ran the ball on 15 of their first 24 plays of the decisive fourth quarter.

Although the Badgers should hardly be bothered by the Boilermakers in the running game, if they do encounter struggles, expect Wisconsin head football coach Paul Chryst to stick with it like last Saturday.

“I think that is the nature of the run game,” noted senior quarterback Joel Stave. “Early in the game both teams are excited and running the ball can be tough against a good front like Nebraska. But I thought the O-line did a good job down the stretch kind of wearing them down. Keep leaning on them and eventually you’re going to get some runs that pop.”

Wisconsin is confident it can summon the right game strategy on the fly. It takes just a little bit of attention paid to your opponent in order to be successful, according Joe Rudolph, UW’s offensive coordinator.

“I think you do a good job of watching, do a good job of seeing where you aren’t successful,” said Rudolph. “…you kind of tweak a couple things, you talk on the sideline.”

The key to victory for the Badgers lies in their ability to convert on third-down, a task with which they have struggled during conference competition. It’s arguably the reason they lost at home to Iowa, and the issue was present during the game last week at Nebraska.

Wisconsin has converted just 31% of its third-down chances, good for only 7th in the Big Ten.

The Badgers have been working on it in practice, and will look to up that percentage Saturday, according to senior #1 receiver Alex Erickson.

“We’re putting a lot of focus on it,” said Erickson. “That’s one of the things that is tough. We’re getting different looks and teams are bringing pressure …but it is what an offense needs to be good at to sustain drives and put points on the board.”

If Purdue has any chance of victory, they will need their freshman quarterback David Blough to be effective. So far on the season, Blough has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns.

Freshman tailback Markell Jones has been a bright spot for the underwhelming Boilermakers. Jones has found the end zone five times already this season and is averaging a healthy 5.8 yards per carry.

He’ll have his hands full against a stout Badgers run defense, however.

Wisconsin is 45-28-9 against Purdue all time.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Purdue 7

Game time: Sunday, October 17, 11:00 AM CT on BTN, BTN2Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI

Preview: No. 19 Badgers Host Rival Hawkeyes in Big Ten Opener

BY TIM TAUER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

It has been somewhat of a slow start to the running game by Wisconsin football standards, but last week the Badgers (3-1) seemed to finally settle into the adjustments made on the ground after Corey Clement’s injury a few weeks ago. The Badgers (3-1) put on quite a show, blowing out Hawaii (2-2) 28-0 and putting up over 200 yards running for the first time this season.

A true test of the run game comes this week in Wisconsin’s conference opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0). Iowa has allowed 84.0 rushing yards per game and is just one of two teams who have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. With such a dominant run defense, Kirk Ferentz will try to set the tempo by shutting down Wisconsin runners Dare Ogunbowale and Tawiwan Deal as early as possible.

Thus, the key to a Badgers victory this Saturday may very well have to come through the air. After a rocky (and at times abysmal) 2014 season for Stave, the 6′ 5” 225lb senior seems to be playing like a smart, more experienced quarterback. He currently has the highest completion percentage of his collegiate career, and if he can keep from turning the ball over, could capitalize on opportunities from defenses who focus too much on the Badgers’ run attack.

Stave had great success against Iowa the last time these two teams met, going 11-for-14 for 139 yards at Kinnick Stadium. It was a crucial victory for Wisconsin, as defeating Iowa (and Minnesota one week later) secured them a spot in the Big Ten Championship.

Other than the 35-17 loss against Alabama (3-1), Wisconsin opponents have yet to score more than three points a game, with two of Wisconsin’s opponents unable to put any points on the board what-so-ever.

However, the days of playing Miami (OH), Troy, and Hawaii are over, and Big Ten play begins.

Iowa has, arguably, the best quarterback the organization has had in a very long time in C.J. Beathard. He’s efficient, accurate, and can run if need be.

Bearthard’s deep ball, however, isn’t as fine tuned as the rest of his play. He’s missed key scoring opportunities when going deep and has thrown some questionable long-balls. Should he throw one up, expect Badgers backs to go beyond preventative defense and attack the passing game in an attempt to create turnovers.

But as Badgers and Hawkeyes fans know, this game isn’t just about improving your spot in the ranking or getting a conference victory; Its a storied rivalry dating back to 1894. As-of-date, these two teams have met on the gridiron a staggering 79 times with the Badgers leading 44-42-2 (.511).

For Paul Chryst this rivalry is especially significant, having experienced it as a player, offensive coordinator, and now head coach for the Wisconsin Badgers. The rivalry aspect of this game was certainly a part of Chryst’s game preparation.

“Yeah, we’re going to talk about it, and I think it’s important” Says Chryst, “It’s one of the neat things I think that here at Wisconsin we have is we do have trophy games, and it’s part of the history of this program and tradition, and I want our guys to understand it and embrace it, so we’re definitely going to talk about it.”

The Badgers will host Iowa this Saturday at Camp Randall. If history tells us anything, this game will be an aggressive, no-holds-barred meeting between two great football programs.

Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Iowa 13

Game time: Saturday, October 3,11:00 AM CT on ESPNCamp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI

Preview: No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers Host Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
The 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, BTN2Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI (Buy Tickets)

Preview: Wisconsin Looks to Build on Blowout Win vs. Miami with Troy

BY JEFF BERNIER

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Wisconsin’s shellacking of Miami (OH) at home last week gave the Badgers, and first year head coach Paul Chryst their first win on the young season. The Badgers (1-1) will look to run their home winning streak versus non-conference opponents to 35 in a row when Wisconsin plays host to the Troy Trojans (1-1) of the Sun-Belt Conference this Saturday in Madison, WI.

Long feared for their explosive rushing attack, the Badgers have enjoyed a resurgence in their passing game. The Badgers have had nine different receivers make a catch in the team’s first two games. While it is still early, Wisconsin’s go-to wide-out Alex Erickson is on pace for a 100-catch season.

It may not be a new era in Badgers country, but the team will remain aggressive through the air as their star running back Cory Clement continues to remain sidelined.

Senior quarterback Joel Stave has completed 65.2% of his passes on the season including five touchdowns. Stave has no shortage of quality targets at his disposal.

Junior wide-out Rob Wheelwright looks to be a breakout star for this newfound aerial attack. Standing six-foot-3, Wheelwright has hauled in three touchdown passes, flashing elite athleticism in the process. Alex Erickson is the most consistent of the group, remaining a favorite target of Stave’s. Two-way star Tanner McEvoy has also emerged as a dangerous target. Towering over opposing defensive-backs, the six-foot-6 McEvoy is able to make big plays on offense while also disrupting opponents passing plans with his fearless play at safety.

Having so many options is luxury for any quarterback; just ask Joel Stave.

“It makes it more fun when you can spread it around and truly just go through your reads,” Stave said, “and you’re not as much looking for a guy as you are looking for the open guy … There’s not so much looking for a specific player.”

Paul Chryst definitely has options as far as a game plan goes. While the passing game has shined in two games this season, the Troy Trojans have allowed a whopping 257 rushing yards per game.

Look for the tandem of Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal to once again do most of the heavy lifting this Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. The pair combined for 157 yards and three scores in last week’s 58-0 trouncing of Miami (OH).

The Troy Trojans are coming off a bounce-back victory over FCS opponent Charleston Southern 44-16 last Saturday. The win followed their week-one loss to North Carolina State. Like the Wolfpack, the Badgers will provide Troy a huge challenge, especially on the road. Troy is just 1-20 against ranked opponents since 2001.

Prediction: Wisconsin 48, Troy 6

Game time: Saturday, September 19, 2:30 PM CT on BTN, BTN2Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI (Buy Tickets)

Preview: Wisconsin Looks to Bounce Back from Alabama Loss with Miami (Ohio)

BY DAN GARCIA

Courtesy of Madison.com

This Saturday we will be traveling to Madison, WI for our launch of The Early Registration Sports, as the Wisconsin Badgers will take on the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks in hopes to bounce back from their 35-17 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide last week. After years of scheduling confidence building season openers against unranked non-conference opponents, Wisconsin is now returning to Camp Randall Stadium for their second consecutive home opener, 0-1, after their new model of opening their season with challenging opponents on the road.

In 2014, the Badgers had to bounce back from a heartbreaking 28-24 loss to LSU in Houston, TX. That year they were able to quickly get their spirits high again as Wisconsin dominated Western Illinois, 37-3, only giving up 162 yards of total offence. This week, the Badgers hope to repeat their return to Madison, this time against the Miami University RedHawks.

Although Miami (Ohio) is going into the game after a convincing, 26-7, win over Presbyterian last Saturday, all signs point to a Wisconsin victory.

Wisconsin is looking for their 20th straight home opener win and their 33rd straight home win (T-6th with Virginia Tech ’99-’09) over a non-conference opponent. And of their non-conference games, the Badgers have done particularly well against the Mid-American Conference, having not lost to the conference since 1988, before any of either teams’ student-athletes were born.

Although a miracle win over the stronger opponents in Wisconsin is unlikely, Miami (Ohio) could not ask for better settings going into Camp Randall. Kicking off his second year as head coach, Miami’s Chuck Martin just saw his team have their best rushing performance under his watch as head coach, with 205 yards rushing against Presbyterian. Freshman Alonzo Smith, the new number one rushing option for the RedHawks, ran for 86 yards with two scores.

To go with Miami’s impressive rushing efforts, Wisconsin is coming off a disappointing defensive effort against Alabama, giving up 238 rushing yards and 4 rushing scores. Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst was disappointed in his front 7, counting 17 missed tackles against the Crimson Tide. To make matter worse, going into Week 2, UW team captain Michael Caputo’s status is still up in the air after leaving the Alabama game early with a concussion.

Don’t let Wisconsin’s defensive struggles and Miami’s new rushing confidence fool you though, Wisconsin is clearly the bigger and better team, with a front seven that shadows over that of Presbyterian. Wisconsin did not schedule itself against Alabama on the road at “Jerry’s World” to get a easy win, they did it to get better and answer the team’s tough questions early in the season. Despite an opening loss, it’s how the Badgers respond, make adjustments, and move forward that will determine their fate later in the year.

After facing Alabama, one of the nation’s top teams, the 24th ranked Wisconsin Badgers should have no problem dominating Miami (Ohio) throughout four quarters after competing with Alabama in the first half. Simply put, a competitive Big 10 program should easily handle a Mid-American team, especially at home. The Badger are not only looking to win this Saturday, and to return to .500, but they are hoping to do it in a convincing fashion to erase any offensive and defensive doubts that were picked up last week in Arlington.

Prediction: Wisconsin 42, Miami (Ohio) 7

Game time: Saturday, September 12, 11:00 AM CT on ESPNU; Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI (Buy Tickets)