Wisconsin vs. NIU: 5 Things to Watch When the Badgers Invade Chicago

Sean LansingContributor ISeptember 15, 2011

Wisconsin vs. NIU: 5 Things to Watch When the Badgers Invade Chicago

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    The No. 7-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) head south this weekend to play MAC opponent Northern Illinois (1-1) at 2:30 P.M. Central Time.

    Former Badgers' defensive coordinator Dave Doeren is in his first season as Huskies head coach, and the game is set to be played at Soldier Field.

    Here are five things to watch for Saturday when Bret Bielema’s squad invades the home of the Chicago Bears. 

Does Dave Doeren Have an Answer for the Badgers?

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    First-year Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren spent the last five seasons calling the shots for the Badgers’ defense before heading south to run his own ship.

    Doeren’s former colleague Paul Chryst is still in charge on the other side of the ball for Wisconsin, and the Badgers' offense is a juggernaut, averaging more than 40 points per game so far this season.

    While some of the pieces are new, Chryst still uses the same philosophy, and it will be interesting to see if Doeren holds the key to slowing down the Badgers from his years in Madison.  

Home Field?

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    Saturday’s tilt between the Badgers and the Huskies will be played at Soldier Field, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

    Although the contest is technically a “home game” for Northern Illinois, don’t be surprised to see more Badger faithful in the stands than Husky backers.

    Chicago is full of Wisconsin grads, and the Windy City is just a two-hour drive from Madison. 

Can Marcus Cromartie Replace Devin Smith?

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    The Badgers learned this week that they will be without the services of senior cornerback Devin Smith for the remainder of the season because of a foot injury suffered against Oregon State.

    As a result, Wisconsin will have to rely on redshirt junior Marcus Cromartie.

    Cromartie filled in nicely against the Beavers’ after Smith got hurt, registering seven tackles.

    Starting this weekend, Badger Nation will find out if he can hold up for the balance of the season. 

Who’s the Number One Back?

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    Through two games this season, running backs Montee Ball and James White are dead-even with 28 carries apiece.

    Ball has outperformed White, averaging over two yards per-carry more than the sophomore with five more scores (six-to-one).

    There is no question that both backs have been successful, and they make up one of the top backfield tandems in the nation.

    Still, it will be interesting to see if Bielema and Chryst start to rely on one more than the other as the season progresses. 

Will You Even Be Able to Watch for These Five Things?

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    It’s hard to believe that in 2011, you might not get to see the No. 7 ranked team in the nation playing inside of an NFL stadium.

    However, because of MAC TV rights, Saturday’s game is only available to most on ESPN3.com.

    No ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS, FOX or Big Ten Network.

    This has caused more than a few grumbles in Madison, especially because tickets to the game are so pricey.