Wisconsin-Arizona State: Five Badgers Who Will Shine Against the Sun Devils
After a lackluster performance against San Jose State, the Wisconsin Badgers have a chance to redeem themselves on Saturday afternoon against a formidable team.
No, Arizona State isn't USC (who Minnesota gets the pleasure of facing), but it is still a Pac-10 squad that has the potential to compete against pretty much anyone they face.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, they haven't faced anyone yet. Literally.
In their first two wins, Arizona State defeated two FCS teams in Portland State and Northern Arizona. They could be in for a rude awakening when they take the field at Camp Randall Stadium.
So, with the Badgers looking to rebound and put on a confidence-building performance, which players should we expect to step up on Saturday?
Louis Nzegwu, Defensive End
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Although Arizona State may not be a familiar sight for many Badgers fans, one thing is overwhelmingly obvious: The Sun Devils like to pass. Always have, always will.
Behind Michigan transfer Steven Threet, Arizona State is averaging over 350 passing yards a game, good for seventh in the nation. After his rough stint in Ann Arbor, Threet has recovered nicely after a year off, throwing for over 600 yards and five touchdowns.
But that was against FCS defenses—not Big Ten defenses.
Wisconsin's front four will put much more pressure on Threet. With most of the focus likely being on J.J. Watt, Wisconsin's other end, Louis Nzegwu, could have a huge day.
Nzegwu already has a sack on the year, and with Threet likely dropping back to pass 25-plus times, he'll definitely have an opportunity for more.
Devin Smith, Cornerback
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Another Badger who could benefit from the increased pressure on Threet is cornerback Devin Smith.
A trendy preseason All-Big Ten pick, Smith has been quiet so far, recording three tackles with no passes defended or breakups. But that could be a sign that teams aren't as willing to pick on Smith as they are the other members of the Badgers' secondary.
Either way, with Threet possibly having only minimal time to get rid of the ball, he won't have the option of being picky when it comes to deciding which receiver to throw to. If given the chance, Smith will pounce on any poorly thrown balls.
Isaac Anderson, Wide Receiver
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With both David Gilreath (concussion) and Nick Toon (turf toe) likely out for Saturday's game, Scott Tolzien's No. 1 option at wide receiver will be senior Isaac Anderson.
Anderson, after a productive season last year, has done relatively little so far. On the year, he has only three catches for 36 yards.
Now, that is partially the product of a passing game that has seen Tolzien struggle to find a rhythm, but Anderson will still need to step up if he hopes to end his college career on a positive note.
Whether the Badgers decide to pass much on Saturday remains to be seen, but if they do, Anderson should get his fair share of opportunities.
Jared Abbrederis, Wide Receiver/Punt Returner
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One player who will directly benefit from David Gilreath's scary concussion is redshirt freshman Jared Abbrederis.
Abbrederis, who saw limited action against UNLV, had a huge game against San Jose State last Saturday, catching five passes for 58 yards. With both Gilreath and Toon out on Saturday, Abbrederis will actually get the start at wide receiver.
What's more, Abbrederis will also likely fill in for Gilreath at punt returner.
Now, no one hopes for an injury—especially if it's your own teammate—but it honestly couldn't have worked out better for Abbrederis.
John Clay, Running Back
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With Wisconsin's passing game somewhat struggling, expect a heavy dose of John Clay on Saturday.
Playing UNLV and San Jose State allowed the Badgers to experiment with their passing game and backup running backs before they hit the tough portion of their schedule.
With Arizona State coming to town, there's no more messing around.
Although James White and Montee Ball will still see a few carries, expect 25-plus for Clay. This will be a nice opportunity for Clay to firmly establish himself as one of the nation's best running backs before he'll likely take a break against Austin Peay next weekend prior to the start of the Big Ten season.
Unless he suffers an injury, expect a ninth consecutive 100-yard game from Clay.