With the defending Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green Falcons heading to Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday, Hustle Belt spoke with Andrew Rosin (@thegnc), contributor at SB Nation site Bucky's Fifth Quarter. Andrew gives us his insight into yet another MAC versus Big Ten Conference match-up.
Hustle Belt: The MAC has been able to beat some of the lower level Big Ten teams this year already. How has that been received in Madison and is it safe to say the Falcons won't sneak up on the Badgers this week?
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Andrew Rosin: Put it this way, the way the Big Ten's been playing will stick in Badger fans craw for a while. They were a healthy defensive line away from going down to Houston and getting a very impressive win over LSU. But as it stands, this might be the most impressive win of the Big Ten non-conference season. And even if there weren't MAC schools making upsets, the history of the Badgers has been filled with Septembers where they've fallen flat against subpar opponents. Even without Bowling Green bringing their two returning star pieces to Camp Randall, Badger fans know that Bowling Green could make this something it's not supposed to be.
HB: Can you give us an update on the Badgers' quarterback situation with Joel Stave's shoulder injury and Tanner McEvoy taking over as the starter?
AR: Briefly, Joel Stave's kind of like a pitcher who's having trouble hitting the strike zone on a consistent basis. His shoulder is structurally fine, but as it stands right now Joel Stave only sees game action if there are a lot of injuries or something goes horribly right for the Badgers. Tanner McEvoy's the starter, and for better or worse, he's probably going to be for a while.
HB: The Badgers struggled some to run the ball in their last game versus Western Illinois. Do you think that has been addressed during the off week and should the Falcons expect a steady diet of Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement this week?
AR: Western Illinois sold out to stop the run. There were eight or nine men in the box on every play. The Badgers were able to make consistent gains through the air and made the Leathernecks pay for their strategy. The Badgers want to run, don't get me wrong. It's just that they needed to prove they could get enough through the air to keep defenses honest after that debacle of a second half at LSU. You should see better days from the running backs.
HB: The Bowling Green offense is an up-tempo attack that ran 113 plays against the Indiana defense last week. How do you see the Badgers defense matching up in this game?
AR: Short answer? Better. Long answer? Indiana's defense has been the millstone that kept Indiana from breaking through as a bowl team. The Badgers as a defense are more athletic, more aggressive, and just flat out make more plays than Indiana. I'm not going to be silly and say Dino Babers doesn't know how to get his against a real defense, because he's a smart coach and the Badgers secondary is youthful. But, if the Badgers need to get off the field, they should do so at a much higher rate than Indiana.
HB: Former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema continues to struggle to turn around the fortunes of the Arkansas Razorbacks program in the SEC. Is there at least some people reveling in that fact in Madison? And, has Badger Nation embraced Gary Andersen?
AR: Ah, the schadenfreude question. It's one of those things that, yes, a part of the good feelings last year was that Arkansas was 0 for the season post-#karma. But we as fans didn't feel like we won the break-up with the hiring of Coach Andersen. Bielema shocking Texas Tech would have caused more anger. Andersen's improved recruiting and doesn't have that same sort of odious persona that Bielema did. We're (LSU game excluded) generally thrilled with the hire.
HB: How do you see the Big Ten West Division shaking out this year? Is it basically between the Badgers and Nebraska? Can the Badgers make a serious run at a national championship playoff spot despite the LSU loss?
AR: It's basically between Nebraska and Wisconsin at this point. Minnesota can't pass. Northwestern still hasn't got over last year's loss to Ohio State, and Iowa's 2013 season feels like a fluke. And to answer your second question, no. That's why the LSU game will stick in the Badger fan's craw. They had them, and now have almost no chance of a "strength of perception" busting win.
HB: Do you want to give us a score prediction on this Saturday's game?
AR: The Badgers threaten 50 points, but that's because Bowling Green scores enough to keep the Badgers first stringers in play. Badgers 49, Bowling Green 31