Wisconsin Badgers Face First Time Opponent in Austin Peay: What To Watch For

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Wisconsin Badgers Face First Time Opponent in Austin Peay: What To Watch For
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) will wrap up their 2010 non-conference football schedule Saturday with a home game against Austin Peay (2-1).

If you’ve never heard of Austin Peay, it’s likely because the Governors are members of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision and the Ohio Valley Conference. Saturday will mark the first time ever in which Austin Peay and Wisconsin have played one another.

Spread em’ out, and run the ball?

The Governors offense will provide the Badgers’ defense with an interesting test. Austin Peay’s offensive unit returns nine starters, only losing two from 2009. The offense is known for running a pro-spread formation, but do not use it for the typical pass game emphasis. Instead, they are known for spreading out and calling a heavy run game. This season the Governors have 111 rush attempts to their 78 passing attempts.

Wisconsin saw a very efficient and productive spread offense in their week-three matchup with Arizona State. While Arizona State’s spread has the traditional emphasis on the pass, they mixed in a lot of run, burning the Badgers for 169 yards on 28 attempts (6.0 yards per carry). The Badgers also gave up a 100-yard rushing game to San Jose State’s Deantre Lewis – something Wisconsin hadn’t allowed in 13 games – and nearly earning an upset win in the process. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin struggles again with a spread-offense running attack.

Go ahead, throw the ball, we insist

Austin Peay quarterback Jake Ryan has not been relied on to throw the ball too often in the offensive scheme, but when he has been forced, struggles have followed. On the season Ryan is 34-for-75 for 428 yards, with a completion percentage of just 45.3 percent. Ryan ranks 92nd in the FCS with his quarterback efficiency rating of 93.1.

With his struggles so evident in his play this season don’t for a second doubt that Wisconsin hasn’t already been game planning and preparing to take advantage. Expect Wisconsin to lock down on the run, and force Ryan and the Governors to beat them through the air.

Attempting to throw out the ‘safety’ net

Wisconsin’s offense will be lining up and going against a defensive scheme they probably won’t see the rest of the season and may not even see again in their collegiate careers.

Austin Peay runs a 4-2-5 base defense, using a third safety – also known as the weak safety – that takes the place of a third linebacker. This formation provides the defense with a speed advantage and a flexibility to adjust to a variety of formations.

Unfortunately, speed doesn’t serve a team much purpose against the big and powerful running attack of Wisconsin.

Expect John Clay to continue his trend against Austin Peay and record his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game of the season. Don’t let it surprise you if running back Montee Ball or James White also eclipse the 100-yard mark for Wisconsin.

Next man in

Disappointment struck Wisconsin this past week with the news that linebacker Chris Borland would be out the rest of the season. Borland re-aggravated a shoulder injury and will require additional surgery to correct the issue.

Senior linebacker Blake Sorensen will step in for Borland and should prove a nice replacement. Linebackers Kevin Claxton and Kevin Rouse should also come in on certain formations to bring their own skill-sets to the table.

Coming into the 2010 season the linebackers appeared to be the most stable unit on the Wisconsin defense. Now’s there chance to prove it.

Watch for how well Sorensen, Claxton and Rouse contribute in the absence of Chris Borland.  

Predictions:

Player of the game: Wisconsin RB John Clay – 20 carries, 150 yards, 2 touchdowns

Final Score: Wisconsin 42, Austin Peay 7

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