Fresno State brings a host of returning players to Camp Randall to try to avenge last year's home loss to the Badgers. The one in which they missed three makeable field goals, any one of which would've tied the game.
The Bulldogs bring with them an experienced line and a stable of experienced and solid running backs, but a relative newcomer at quarterback. Sound like any team you remember from last year? Like maybe the Iowa Hawkeyes?
Be afraid of the power running game. Very afraid.
Well, maybe not. Not unlike the Badgers themselves, Fresno State finished last year 7-6. However, unlike the Badgers, they don't have any dramatic changes (like, say, an upgrade at quarterback) to make them a different team.
Just like the solid, but not spectacular MAC team the Badgers hosted last week, Fresno State is a solid, but not spectacular WAC team, who will provide a test, but shouldn't be a real barometer for the Badgers' season. Yes, they crushed an FCS team last weekend at home, but the upset over Stanford back when Stanford was awful notwithstanding, don't get too excited about the Dawgs beating UC-Davis.
Fresno State will do what it does: run the ball hard. With an untested quarterback under center, the Bulldogs need to establish and rely on the running game.
What to look for in this game? First, does the added bulk on the Badger defensive line provide a better backstop against a power-running oriented team (it's what Pat Hill coached teams do, unless David Carr is their quarterback, and, well, he's not).
Second, do the Badger linebackers do a better job this week of containing the run on the outside. If I'm Pat Hill I immediately test the edges of the Badger defense.
Finally, for the defense, have the corners learned their pass-interference lesson from last week?
On the other side of the ball, Badger fans need to see more of the same from Tolzien, and a better effort from both Zach Brown and John Clay.
Two important indicators for the special teams? One, is Welch back to last year's form kicking field goals (no more shanking 41-yarders). Two, will Gilreath start following his protection on returns, or is it time to give someone else a try?
Fresno State is a great tune-up game for Michigan State in two weeks. Although I don't expect Wisconsin to roll, at the Camp, with an 11 am start (9 am, Pacific Standard Time), the Badgers should put a convincing stamp on Fresno State.
As long as they don't call in sick.