Wisconsin Football: 3 Keys to the Game vs. Minnesota
Last Friday, the analysts were still very wary of a Wisconsin team slowly recapturing its form.
This week, it seems as though the Badgers have found some confidence, some big plays and some believers. After a dominant performance against a Purdue team that was supposed to win on speed, defense and emotion, Bret Bielema looks to keep the momentum as Minnesota visits Camp Randall.
The Gophers were the surprise of the conference when they rolled through their non-conference slate without a blemish on the record. Minnesota fans lost that loving feeling as the Gophers remain winless in the conference.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, may be peaking at a dangerous time for Jerry Kill. Montee Ball looks like a man possessed while the Badger defense looks like a focused unit determined to cause havoc at the line of scrimmage.
If the Badgers want to play lumberjack for the week though, they will have to run effectively, make the Gophers hesitate and cover their kicks.
If It Ain't Broke...
Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE
The Badgers' offensive strategy lives on the shoulders of an offensive line that is coming together, a calm quarterback and a running back looking for redemption.
That scheme should not change coming into this game.
The play-action pass, along with some great catches by Jacob Pedersen, kept the defense honest enough to allow the trio of Badger rushers to run wild at Purdue. The same needs to ring true Saturday morning.
As bad as the Gophers are at defending the run, they are as good at defending the pass, ranking 9th nationally. When Joel Stave throws, he better be sure he has a man open or else the entire unit will suffer as Minnesota crowds the box to stop the rush.
Balance will be the name of the game, or else Goldy will bring the axe north on I-94.
Make Them Think Twice
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
After a slow start, the Wisconsin sack machine seems to be running at max capacity.
The Badgers made themselves at home in the offensive backfield in Purdue and look to replicate that pressure against an immobile quarterback in Max Shortell.
While Shortell has filled in admirably for the injured dual-threat star MarQueis Gray, the sophomore has shown a tendency to make mistakes under pressure. Gray, though, will reportedly line up at receiver for some snaps.
The variety of blitzes the Badgers have on tape alone should give Shortell some pause, and that hesitation should only grow if linebacker Chris Borland makes his way to the signal caller.
Statistically speaking, Beau Allen and his crew should account for at least two sacks, but the defense could rack up even more if the line shows any weakness.
Win the Field Position Battle
Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE
While Badger fans delighted in how well the offense and defense were playing last week, those smiles turned to groans during first half kickoffs.
It seems as though it was a cruel moment of deja vu of previous teams whose kickoff and punt coverage units kept everyone at the edge of their seats. Purdue's speedsters seemed to eat up yardage at will, putting their offense at a huge advantage. To its credit, Wisconsin adjusted at halftime and neutralized Purdue's special teams as the Badgers pulled away.
Wisconsin will need to continue that trend as a great kick return not only puts points on the board, put takes the home fans out of the game. A huge part of this game will be a chess match of emotions, and the Badgers are in no place to surrender any part of the field.