The Falcons travel to Madison, Wisconsin to face the Badgers just a week after facing BIG opponent Indiana. Bowling Green and Wisconsin have met three times previously. Thus far the Badgers are undefeated with the last meeting ending 35-14 back in 2006.
Wisconsin Badgers 2013 Season Rewind:
The Badgers were in the midst of a coaching change before the 2013 season, bringing in former Utah State coach Gary Anderson. Anderson, who helped build a winning program at Utah State as the D-coordinator, did not miss a beat as he led the Badgers to its fourth nine win season in ten years. The Badgers also produced a Top 10 nationally ranked defense and went to their third BIG title game in four years in which they lost to Ohio State by just seven points. The Badgers concluded the 2013 season with a loss to South Carolina 34-24 in the Capitol One Bowl. Wisconsin will lose four of its six starting O-lineman as well as all four of their linebackers for the 2014 season, but look for the Badgers to still be very stout on both sides of the ball.
Fittingly, (finally) the mascot for Wisconsin is the state animal, the Badger. The Badger is known for its defensive nature which really makes it a great fit for the University and its football team. Wisconsin has been known for its defensive nature in football consistently ranking in the top ten defenses in the country. The logo for the university features an angry badger that is dressed in a frat boy type looking sweater that is used to strike fear into the hearts of all BIG opponents. I really wish that this was the logo on the football helmets, just saying.
Conference / Division:
The Badgers reside in the West division of the BIG 10, which is the best place to be if you are Wisconsin. What I mean by this, is while Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and others battle it out in the East, the Badgers take opponents such a Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, and Iowa. Now no respect to the West division, but lets face it, the bulk of the better BIG teams all reside in the East. The conference realignment that took place this offseason left the Badgers with an easier route to the top of the West Division.
Camp Randall Stadium is the home of the Badgers and is known as one of the rowdiest stadiums in college football. Camp Randall has been the home of Badger football since 1895 in which the stadium was in its simplest form. Originally Camp Randall was a barracks camp that housed troops during the civil war, the field kept the title "camp" exactly because of ground in which it lies on. The first game played at Camp Randall was in 1895 in which the Badgers defeated Minnesota by a score of 6-0. The stadium has come along way as of today, when first built it fit around 3,000 people. Now, Camp Randall can hold almost 80,000 to max capacity and has seen max crowds all the way to 83,000. Some famous traditions take place inside the stadium including the Badgers famous "Jump Around."
Last Bowl Appearance:
The last bowl appearance for the Badgers was last year in which they fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks by a score of 34-24 in the Capitol One Bowl. The Badgers took a 14-13 lead going into halftime, but could not outlast five touchdown passes thrown by Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw.
Gary Anderson will enter his second year as the coach of this Badger football team coming off a very successful first year. Anderson, who replaced Bret Bielema before the 2013 season, led Wisconsin to a 9-3 record this season and a birth to the BIG championship game in which they lost to Ohio State. The Former Utah State coach held the high standard of Wisconsin football in his first season with the team.
Anderson came into the Wisconsin program with extraordinary talent to work with on both sides of the ball. The Badgers ranked eighth in points against in the nation and sixth in the nation is rushing yards under Anderson in 2013. The sixth ranked rushing attack was bolstered by possibly the best offensive line in the nation, for which Anderson can also take some credit. I would say that the Wisconsin program did not miss a beat under Anderson in 2013 and will be even better in 2014.
Five Key Players:
1. Melvin Gordon, Junior, RB, (6'1, 207 lbs)
2. Joel Stave, Junior, QB, (6'5, 225 lbs)
3. Cory Clement, Sophomore, ( 5'11, 210 lbs)
4. Derek Landisch, Senior, LB, (6'0, 230 lbs)
5. Dallas Lewallen, Senior, LG, (6'6, 322 lbs)
The Badger offense was headed by one of the best offensive lines in the nation last season which in return helped fuel one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. Wisconsin lost their leading rusher James White, top receiver Jarred Abbrederis, and first team all Big 10 offensive guard Ryan Groy. Out of these three key losses Abbrederis looks to be the hardest to replace considering he caught 78 passes for almost 1,100 yards last season earning him the reputation as one of the best receivers in the nation.
The running game for the Badgers was a triple headed monster last season as James White, Melvin Gordon, and Corey Clement combined for over 275 rushing yards per game. White will be gone this season, but look for Gordon and Clement to have breakout years as they will both bring explosiveness to this Wisconsin offense. Gordon was the leading rusher for the Badgers last season as he rushed for at least 140 yards in at eight games last season. His most notable performance last season is when he piled up 216 yards against Nebraska on only nine carries. If Bowling Green is going to have a shot at winning this game they are going to have to slow down this explosive rushing attack that tore through the BIG last season.
Short yardage situations and turnovers became a struggle for the Wisconsin offense last season, and that was a result of very few explosive plays in the passing game. Quarterback Joel Stave's numbers weren't bad last season, but they weren't that great either. He had a completion percentage of just over 60 percent and a sack rate just under 5% which is overall not too shabby. Stave's had an interception rate of almost four percent which is almost double of what a quarterback wants to have especially when he is not throwing the ball down the field. Look for Stave to be challenged for the starting job this season and under pressure to keep the job during the season if he does remain the starter.
To compete in the BIG a solid defense is a must and Wisconsin prides themselves in having a stellar defense. The defensive front for the Badger team was the key to their successes last season as they were very tough to run against. The D-line for Wisconsin was able to free up the linebackers who were then able to stop the running game of many teams without having to bring extra DB's into the box. This allowed for the defensive backs to focus on coverage and make teams only rely on their passing game.
The defensive front for this Badger team will be in rebuilding mode this season, but should be very solid. Possibly the x-factor for this defense could be senior linebacker Derek Landisch. Landisch will be one of the only senior defensive starters and has been a starter since he was a true freshman. Landisch finished the season with 81 tackles last year and was a third-team All-BIG selection. He has only truly started three games for the Badgers in his career, but had played in 38 out of 41 games for them in the last three seasons. Its hard to say that the Wisconsin defense will be as solid as it was last season considering they have to replace their entire front seven, but most of the guys replacing them have seen their share of snaps and should fit into the system pretty well.
The special teams unit for the Badgers last season did what they needed to do to be a solid unit. Wisconsin will return their punter Drew Meyer, kicker Andrew Endicott, place kicker Jack Russell, and main kick returner Kenzel Doe. This unit together was ranked 50th in the nation last season which isn't bad but also is nothing special. Leg strength was a problem for punter Drew Meyer as he only averaged about 39 yards per punt last season. The Badgers were decent in the field position battle, but really could use some improvement. Kenzel Doe could boost the overall strength of this unit as he returned 20 kicks last year averaging about 27 yards per return and taking one of those to the house. Overall look for this group to improve in 2014 because while the offense and defense of the Badgers were tremendous, the special teams game was about average.
SO YOUR SAYING THERE IS A CHANCE?! I do think Bowling Green has a chance to pull off this major upset, I'm just not sure exactly how much of a chance. For BG to win this game they are going to have to slow down the running game of Wisconsin and completely control the pace of the game. If they don't control the pace, the Badgers will just wear down the Falcon defense and score willingly. I don't think BG will pull this game out, but I do think it could be closer than expected. Badgers 35, Falcons 24