Utah State vs. Wisconsin: NCAA Complete Game Preview
Wisconsin (1-1) and Utah State (2-0) are on opposite ends of the spectrum heading into Saturday's Week 3 clash.
The Badgers have completely dropped out of the Top 25 after two lackluster performances, while the Aggies are riding all sorts of momentum, coming off their first victory over in-state rival Utah since 1997.
As Utah State comes into Camp Randall Stadium with a full head of steam, the Badgers are still scratching their heads, trying to figure out what exactly is going on.
Let's break down every aspect of the upcoming matchup between the Badgers and the Aggies.
Depth Chart for Wisconsin
QB—Danny O'Brien, Joel Stave/Curt Phillips
RB—Montee Ball, James White
FB—Derek Watt, Sherard Cadogan
WR—Jared Abbrederis, Reggie Love
WR—Jordan Frederick, Jeff Duckworth
WR—Kenzel Doe, AJ Jordan
TE—Jacob Pedersen, Sam Arneson
TE—Brian Wozniak, Brock DeCicco
LT—Rick Wagner, Tyler Marz
LG—Ryan Groy, Ray Ball/Dallas Lewallen
C—Travis Frederick, Dan Voltz
RG—Zac Matthias, Kyle Costigan/Dallas Lewallen
RT—Rob Havenstein, Robert Burge
DE—David Gilbert, Pat Muldoon
DT—Ethan Hemer, Bryce Gilbert
DT—Beau Allen, Warren Herring
DE—Brendan Kelly, Tyler Dippel
SLB—Ethan Armstrong, Conor O'Neill/Vince Biegel
MLB—Chris Borland, Marcus Trotter
WLB—Mike Taylor, Derek Landisch
CB—Devin Smith, Devin Gaulden
SS—Michael Trotter, Michael Caputo
FS—Dezmen Southward, Michael Caputo
CB—Marcus Cromartie, Darius Hillary
P—Drew Meyer, Stephen Salata
K/KO—Kyle French, Jack Russell
LS—James McGuire, Connor Udelhoven
H—Stephen Salata, Drew Meyer
PR—Jared Abbrederis, Kenzel Doe
KR—Kenzel Doe, James White
Depth Chart for Utah State
QB—Chuckie Keeton, Adam Kennedy
RB—Kerwynn Williams, Joe Hill
WR—Travis Reynolds, Travis Van Leeuwen
WR—Matt Austin, Brandon Swindall
WR—Chuck Jacobs, Cameron Webb
TE—DJ Tialavea, Brad Theurer
TE—Kellen Bartlett, Keegan Andersen
LT—Kevin Whimpey, Logan Molohifo'ou
LG—Jamie Markosian, Bryce Walker
C—Tyler Larsen, Taani Fisilau
RG—Eric Schultz, Kyle Whimpey
RT—Oscar Molina-Sanchez, Jorden Mattinson
DE—Al Lapuaho, Jordan Nielsen
NG—Travis Seefeldt, Havea Lasike
DE—Connor Williams, BJ Larsen
OLB—Bojay Filimoeatu, Jefferson Court
ILB—Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil
ILB—Tavaris McMillian, Parker Hausknecht
OLB—Terrell Thompson, Kyler Fackrell
CB—Jumanne Robertson, Ladale Jackson
SS—Brian Suite, Frankie Sutera
FS—McKade Brady, Cameron Sanders
CB—Nevin Lawson, Rashard Stewart
P—Tyler Bennett, Jaron Bentrude
K—Nick Diaz, Josh Thompson
LS—Nate Needham, Mark Hutchinson
PR—Chuck Jacobs, Kerwynn Williams
KR—Kerwynn Williams, Chuck Jacobs
What Happened to the Badgers Last Week
A picture's worth a thousand words, and the picture on this slide shows jubilation in Corvallis after the Oregon State Beavers defeated the Wisconsin Badgers, 10-7.
Quarterback Danny O'Brien was inefficient. The offensive line failed to give Montee Ball any running room while the Oregon State defense gave the Badgers' offense fits all afternoon long.
A controversial overturned call on a Wisconsin onside kick recovery cut off the Wisconsin comeback attempt, but the fact of the matter is that the Badgers didn't deserve to win on this day.
The Badgers dropped from No. 13 in the rankings to unranked, and any National Title hopes were diminished.
Wisconsin's No. 1 receiver, Jared Abbrederis, was knocked out of the game with a chest injury, and starting safety Shelton Johnson suffered a broken arm.
Here is an update from Bret Bielema on the injuries, per Dave Heller of jsonline.com:
Bielema: "Knowing Jared, I think he'll be out there with us this weekend." Reiterates Shelton Johnson is out 4-6 weeks. #badgers— Dave Heller (@dave_heller) September 11, 2012
What Happened to the Aggies Last Week
Utah State featured a crowd-storming of their own after the Aggies knocked off Utah in overtime by the score of 27-20.
The Aggies are riding some kind of high right now, as it was the first time they defeated the Utes in 15 years. Utah State was led by sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keaton, who threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 86 yards.
The game started off with a bang after the Aggies recovered a blocked punt in the endzone and they rode that early momentum to victory. Now they will try and carry that same momentum on to Madison as the cream of the crop in the WAC.
What It Means to Both Teams
What it means to Wisconsin:
Well, the Badgers didn't exactly make the statement they were hoping for at Oregon State last week. After receiving quite a scare Week 1 from Northern Iowa, they received the ultimate wake-up call from the Beavers last week.
This game is yet another opportunity for Wisconsin to try and get back on track. It's the first game without offensive line coach Mike Markuson, who was fired Sunday night and replaced by Bart Miller. The change came as a surprise to many, and now the offensive line will have an even larger magnifying glass hovering over it.
The unit will have to be better this week if Montee Ball has any hopes of a Heisman.
What it means to Utah State:
The Aggies have defeated two in-state opponents, but now they must travel to Madison for their biggest test yet. A win could very well vault Utah State into the Top 25, and that would mean a lot for a program that hasn't tasted such a luxury since the 1970s.
But this team has proven it can compete with the big boys, nearly pulling off an upset at Auburn last season and defeating Utah in the Battle of the Brothers. A victory against Wisconsin would make it back-to-back wins against BCS conference schools.
Key Player for Wisconsin
Key Player for Wisconsin: RB Montee Ball
It's now or never for Montee Ball.
The Badgers' Heisman finalist from a year ago, Ball has only amassed 181 yards and a 3.9 yards per rush average. Not exactly Heisman-like numbers, but a lot of blame has to be shifted to his atrocious offensive line—or atrociously coached offensive line.
Now, with a new offensive line coach taking over this week, it will be intriguing to see what kind of impact it has on the performance of the O-line and in turn, Montee Ball. If he can get going, it will open up all kinds of opportunities for the Wisconsin offense and quarterback Danny O'Brien.
A trip back to Camp Randall may be just what the doctor ordered for Ball and the Badgers.
Key Player for Utah State
Key player for Utah State: QB Chuckie Keeton
Utah State's dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton has created a spark in the Aggies' offense, and if he can cause fits for the Badgers' defense, than Utah State has a great chance at pulling off the "upset."
A dual-threat QB forces a defense to come up with a whole new game plan, and Wisconsin will have to strategize accordingly for Keeton. The sophomore took off running 17 times and compiled 86 yards against the Utes.
Efficiency has been the biggest key to Keeton's success thus far in 2012, and he may try and pick on Badger safety Michael Trotter, who is filling in for the injured Shelton Johnson. His ability to keep defenses honest with his speed will open up the passing game, and that will be the key to Utah State's success on Saturday.
Wisconsin Will Win If ....
Wisconsin will win if they can dominate in the trenches.
Not only has the offensive line failed to create running space for Montee Ball and company, but it also hasn't given Danny O'Brien ample time in the pocket. The defensive line has done an adequate job of holding its own. Now it's time for the O-line to follow suit.
Head Coach Bret Bielema hopes the firing of line coach Mike Markuson provides a spark (via Jeff Potrykus of jsonline.com), and it better, because tension surrounding the football program is at an all-time high—and it's only Week 3.
Time will tell if Bart Miller's strategies and schemes rub off on Wisconsin's mammoth offensive line, and if they do on Saturday, the Badgers should be in good shape.
Utah State Will Win If ....
Utah State will win if they shut down Montee Ball.
So far this season, that's been the formula for success against the Badgers. Oregon State held Ball to 61 yards rushing last week, and Wisconsin trailed nearly the entire game. By the fourth quarter, the Badgers had to abandon the run all together in an attempt to get back in the ball game.
If Montee Ball is a non-factor, this means the Badgers still have the same issues at offensive line, and Utah State should be able to jump out to a lead.
While it's important to shut down Ball, the Aggies won't want to put all their eggs in one basket. If packing eight in the box means O'Brien having a field day, then this strategy can be thrown right out the window.
But with the way this Badger O-line has performed, Utah State shouldn't have to do that, and a limited Ball equates to an Aggie victory.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Utah State 21
Based on the results of the first two games, my prediction privileges should be revoked, but since I'm obligated to do so, I'll give the Badgers a slight edge in this one.
The first two weeks, I have overestimated the Badgers and underestimated their opponent. I'm trying to avoid such arrogance this week, and I believe a nail-biter isn't out of the question even though the line is set at -14 in favor of Wisconsin—why, I have no idea.
The Badgers' offensive line simply cannot get any worse at this point, can it? I'm banking on improvement, and if we see said improvement Saturday night, Wisconsin will regain some of its mojo.