Akron - W (38-17)
Marshall - W (51-14)
No. 21 Fresno State - W (13-10)
Michigan - L (27-25)
No. 14 Ohio State - L (20-17)
This wasn't exactly the matchup everyone had envisioned when the season started. Many "experts" picked Wisconsin to finish third in the Big Ten and be the one team that seriously threatened Ohio State for the Big Ten title. At the very least, many thought Wisconsin would come into this game with only one blemish but then came back to back 4th quarter debacles and Wisconsin is just trying to avoid a three game losing streak. They allowed a long scoring drive late in the game against Ohio State and an implausible 19-0 lead slip away against Michigan. Now questions abound about this Badger team especially concerning quarterback Allan Evridge.
"The part that Allan has to improve on more than anything is his accuracy as a passer," [Head Coach Bret] Bielema said of the left-handed quarterback. "The bottom line is that we have to expect the ball to be delivered with better accuracy. … He has to see a clearer picture of what we're trying to get done."
The offense starts and ends with running back P.J. Hill, the thing is, teams have figured that out. Hill does rank 4th in the conference and 23 nationally in rushing but he's averaging 4.7 yards per carry, easily the worst of his career. In Wisconsin's two loses, Hill averaged a measly 3.5 yards per carry and didn't come close to cracking the century mark. That puts the pressure on the aforesaid Allan Evridge and he hasn't responded well completing only 53.2 percent of his passes in the same two games. It ain't rocket science, stuff the line, force Evridge to beat you and if he does, tip your hat to him.
The defense has played well for the Badgers in 4 out of their five games they've allowed 20 or fewer points with the lone exception being the Michigan game where they fell asleep for a quarter. They rank 4th in the conference in total and pass defense. They are a bit vulnerable against the run giving up just under 124 yards per game which puts them at 7th. The red flag on this defense is the lack of pressure they generate; they're 8th in sacks and 7th in TFL.
inebacker Jaeve McFadden leads the team and is 4th in the Big Ten with 44 tackles 2.5 for loss. The Badgers have 7 interceptions as a team with cornerback Niles Brinkley and Safety Shane Carter leading the team each with 2. Their best sack man is left end O'Brien Schofield with 3 but, again, that isn't anything special, in comparison, Penn State has three guys with at least 3 sacks.
Putting and kickoff returns good, punt returns bad. Wisconsin is dead last in the conference returning punts. Punter Brad Nortman is 4th in the conference averaging 42 yards per punt but he's pretty accurate placing 7 inside the 20 with only 1 touchback. Kicker Philip Welch is equally as solid connecting on 9 of 11 field goals, none of which came inside the 20 and his only miss was from 50. He is a little weak on kickoffs with only 1 touchback. WR David Gilreath is 4th in the conference in kick returns averaging 27 yards per return.
Despite their recent problems, Wisconsin is an all-around solid team and it's an 8 PM start. Penn State has only won once at Camp Randall and their last trip the offense forgot to show up and Paterno left on a golf cart with a leg injury. It's no secret what the Badgers will do but what will Paterno do? Will he come out guns a-blazin'? Penn State doesn't have to try and score 50 points to win they just have to get at least a 10 point lead and make Wisconsin come from behind because their offense isn't built to do that. The 2008 optimistic PSU fan in me wants to believe that Penn State will come out throw some wrinkles at Wisconsin that they've never seen and get a lead but I just can't get over the pessimist in me. I'm worried we'll see the same road-conservative play approach we saw at Purdue last week and just about every road game last year. If Penn State comes out and tries to out-Wisconsin Wisconsin by running the ball and playing bend-but-don't-break defense the will lose. But screw all that I'm tempting fate and going with Mr. Optimism.