Following their matchup with Presbyterian in its home opener, Miami will hit the road as it clashes with the Wisconsin Badgers, the 2014 Big Ten West champions, on September 12. The Badgers will be coming off of a Week 1 showdown with Alabama in Arlington, Texas and will be showcasing new head coach Paul Chryst in Camp Randall Stadium against the RedHawks.
Chryst took the job in Madison this offseason after former coach Gary Anderson bolted for the opening at Oregon State after two years at the helm for Wisconsin. Chryst, a Wisconsin alum, previously coached at the school for eight years on the offensive side of the ball, tutoring the likes of Scott Tolzien, Russell Wilson, and Montee Ball, before taking the head job at Pittsburgh in 2011.
Despite losing Melvin Gordon to the NFL, the Badgers still have a load of talent in the backfield as junior runningback Corey Clement had seven 100-yard rushing games and 11 total touchdowns last season, and earned himself a spot on the 2015 Maxwell Award Watch List. 5'11", 188-pound redshirt junior Dare Ogunbowale brings some depth as he rushed for 193 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries in 2014.
The quarterback position is more of a question mark for Wisconsin as the team threw for 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last year. Redshirt senior Joel Stave threw for 1,350 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions to the tune of a completion percentage of 53.4, while fellow redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy went for 709 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions in the air while adding 574 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Someone who saw a decent amount of snaps in the Spring Game this spring was redshirt freshman DJ Gillins, who showed some explosiveness running with the football but showed deficiencies as a passer.
The receiving corps is an area of concern as well as the Badgers return only three receiving touchdowns from a season ago. Alex Erickson led the way with 55 receptions for 772 yards and three touchdowns while redshirt sophomore Troy Fumagalli (6-foot-5, 246 pounds) led the tight ends with 14 catches for 187 yards.
Up front for Wisconsin, there will be three new starters on the offensive line in 2015 but it will also feature decorated junior center Dan Voltz. Voltz, who was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List for the second straight year, earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors by the media and a Honorable Mention distinction by coaches last season for helping the offense average 468.9 yards per game while only allowing 13 sacks.
The team's 3-4 defense boasts a pair of playmakers also, as redshirt junior outside linebacker Vince Biegel safety Michael Caputo (6'1", 212 pounds) were both named to the Bednarik Award Watch List. Biegel tallied 7.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of forced fumbles and recoveries, while Caputo had 106 total tackles, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, four recoveries, a sack, and an interception.
Special teams is also a strength for the Badgers as sophomore placekicker Rafael Gaglianone went 19-for-22 on field goal attempts with two over 50 yards as redshirt senior punter Drew Meyer had five punts of 50+ yards and 18 downed inside the 20-yard line. Kickoff specialist Andrew Endicott had 28 touchbacks on 90 kickoffs and allowed an average return of 19.9 yards last season.
If the RedHawks can keep it a low scoring game (and if Wisconsin loses its mind and tries to throw the ball a lot), then they definitely have a chance. But the game is inevitably going to come down to stopping the running game of the Badgers, and time will tell if the 'Hawks have the girth and the ability to do so against such a talented team.