In Part One of this Game-By-Game preview of the Wisconsin Badgers football team, I will look at the first 5 Division I-A games, how the face-offs will compare to last year, and what to expect this time around.
September 12, Fresno State Bulldogs, 2008: Baders Win 13-10
In 2008, The No. 10 Badgers went to Fresno to face their first real challenge of the season. The Bulldogs were, at that time, ranked no. 21 in the nation. In the first half, the Badgers flew out into a 10-point lead, thanks to a pass from Alvin Evridge to Garrett Graham, and a field goal by Phillip Welch, and also held the Bulldogs scoreless through the half. However throughout the second half, the Badgers scored only three more points, and allowed 10. The Bulldogs were then stopped on their last drive with a sack by DeAndre Levy, and Wisconsin was able to run out the rest of the clock. The Badgers come into this game with a young defense and will not be able to rely on them as much this time around. In addition, Wisconsin needs to throw most of their confidence into John Clay, who will hope to expose some of the same weaknesses in the Fresno State Rush Defense that occurred last year, but even that may be tough with most of the front line returning for the Bulldogs. In addition, the Badgers need to force the Bulldogs to turn to their passing game in this one, as the Bulldogs will come in with a first-year starter at Quarterback.
September 26, Michigan State Spartans, 2008: Badgers lose 25-24
Last year’s game was a good one for the Badgers offense with a touchdown being scored in every quarter except the second. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin defense lost the lead for them as they struggled in the fourth quarter, and let up 12 points as MSU squeaked out a one-point win over the Badgers. The Badgers have one thing that they can use to their advatage in this game, and that is the current situation with the Spartan backfield. Neither the Quarterback or Halfback positions are set in stone at this point, and with Wisconsin playing MSU relatively early this year, there still may be some shuffling being made at this point in the season. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Michigan State returns eight starters on the defensive side of the ball, but even though there is strength in numbers, MSU did not exactly have a shut down defense last year, averaging 355 yards and 22 points allowed per game. Wisconsin will have a decent chance to win this game as long as they don’t make any crucial errors.
October 3, @ Minnesota Golden Gophers, 2008: Badgers win 35-32
The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe returns to the Dome this year, after a tremendous game at Camp Randall last year. The Badgers fell to an early deficit, being down 21-7 after the first half. However, both sides of the ball picked up for Wisconsin in the second half, as the offense scored 28 points, and the defense allowed only 11. This year’s game may be one of the toughest for Wisconsin as Minnesota returns 18 starters from last year, 10 on offense, and eight on defense. Among them is Adam Weber, who threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s game. However, the Gopher’s did allow over 380 yards of defense per game last year, over 240 of which were through the air, which is arguably the Badgers’ more viable threat coming into the season, but that’s not to say John Clay, who ran for over 800 yards last year as the number two back, can’t also find a hole in a defense the let up over 140 yards on the ground per game.
October 10, @ Ohio State Buckeyes, 2008: Badgers lose 20-17
The Badgers came into this game last year ranked no. 18 in the polls, and were able to keep it close with the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes. The game was tied at 10 going into the Fourth Quarter, and the game was living up to the Primetime Saturday Night hype. The stat battle was extremely close that night with OSU holding only a one yard lead over Wisconsin in Total Yards Gained. This year a very good OSU team will face Wisconsin once again, only this time Wisconsin will go on the road into hostile territory to attempt to take down a National Championship caliber team in Ohio State. If there is one weakness that could be exposed with the Buckeyes it would be Terrelle Pryor’s ability to put the ball in the air. In the same boat, Wisconsin must not let Pryor fit into his element of leaving the pocket, which is how Pryor scored the game-winning touchdown over the Badgers last year. This might be, without a doubt, the toughest game on Wisconsin’s schedule this year, and in order to win, the Badgers will need to negate Pryor’s rushing ability and force him to either hand the ball off to a less-than-stellar running game with the loss of Beanie Wells, or test himself through the air. Either way this will be a tough one for the Badgers to win.
October 17, Iowa Hawkeyes, 2008: Badgers lose 38-16
The Iowa Hawkeyes will come to Madison this year after a big win over Bucky last year. After allowing only 14 points in the first half, the Badger defense seemed to falter in the second, allowing 28 points, which, an offense led by a poor performance from Dustin Sherer. The Iowa offense will be under some pressure this year as Iowa lost Shonn Greene who rushed for over 1,800 yards last year. This will put more pressure on returning quarterback Rick Stanzi, who did a decent job behind center for the Hawkeyes last year. A decent offense and a defense that lost two of its most important players in the off-season power a Hawkeyes team that should be able to pick up where they were last year if they can play consistently.
Clearly, the first half of the year will be a tough one for the Badgers, but if they can be a consistent team and make as little mistakes as possible, there should be a chance for them in all of the games. Look for part two soon!