It was reported on Aug. 25 that sophomore quarterback Joel Stave will lead the Wisconsin Badgers offense in their Week 1 matchup against Massachusetts (via David Hookstead on Twitter). The announcement comes just six days before Wisconsin's opener, and it was a hotly contested position battle between Stave and sixth-year senior Curt Phillips.
Both signal callers are viable options for the Badgers, especially against an opponent like the Minutemen, a team that went 1-11 last season in their first year as a member of the FBS. UMass also happens to be a 45-point underdog as it gears up to enter the grounds of Camp Randall Stadium (via Bovada).
If things go according to plan, we should get a chance to see both Stave and Phillips on the field Aug. 31, and maybe even Tanner McEvoy—perhaps at both quarterback and wide receiver.
Plenty of players will see the field regardless of whether the Badgers are able to run away with a commanding lead, so this should have an impact on our projected statistics for Wisconsin against UMass.
PASSING STATS: 14-of-19, 170 yards, 1 TD
Joel Stave: 9-of-11, 135 yards, 1 TD
Curt Phillips: 4-of-5, 27 yards
Tanner McEvoy: 1-of-3, 8 yards
RUSHING STATS: 57 carries, 333 yards (5.84 average), 5 TDs
James White: 21 carries, 138 yards, 2 TDs
Melvin Gordon: 17 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs
Corey Clement: 8 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD
Jeff Lewis: 4 carries, 10 yards
Derek Watt: 3 carries, 13 yards
Tanner McEvoy: 3 carries, 12 yards
Curt Phillips: 1 carry, 2 yards
RECEIVING STATS: 14 catches, 170 yards, 1 TD
Jacob Pedersen: 4 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD
Jared Abbrederis: 4 catches, 68 yards
Jordan Fredrick: 2 catches, 19 yards
Brian Wozniak: 2 catches, 11 yards
Alex Erickson: 1 catch, 12 yards
Jeff Duckworth: 1 catch, 13 yards
DEFENSIVE/SPECIAL TEAMS STATS: 6 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD, 10 points allowed
Kyle French: 1-of-1, 37 yards
Not only did UMass rank outside of the Top 100 in the FBS in scoring, passing and rushing, but its defense had its issues as well. It gave up 225.6 yards-per-game on the ground despite playing in a pass-happy MAC, and the Minutemen were far better in pass defense, allowing 235.8 yards through the air each contest.
There's no question that Massachusetts will key in on the run against the Badgers, but it won't matter. Wisconsin is simply too overpowering up front and will have its way with UMass' front seven.
As a result of its success running the football, Wisconsin won't find it necessary to throw the football very often. A lopsided game should allow just about everyone to see the field, which is why we have three quarterbacks listed in the passing department and seven different rushers.
There will be a few read-option looks with Phillips and McEvoy in the game—assuming both get in the game—but that's it, as head coach Gary Andersen probably won't want to give too much away for future opponents to catch on tape. Just enough to get a feel for it, and the same goes for Wisconsin's defense, which is switching to a 3-4 formation with a refined approach.
The bottom line? Football is back, and the Badgers will rout the Minutemen on college football's opening weekend.
Follow Bleacher Report's Wisconsin Badgers football writer Dave Radcliffe on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_