Stop Whining about the Secondary. Things are Changing.

I hate to start this off on a bad note, but think back to your darkest moment as a Badger football fan.

Waiting

Waiting

Ok, if you’re still here, I bet this moment involves a Badger DB doing something bad.  It could be one of multiple B10 Championship games where the Badger DBs were simply too small to get jump balls or too slow to catch RBs. Maybe its Oregon skill players making the Badger DBs look like they had cement in their shoes. Or perhaps it’s one of many other coverage snafus in 2011. If you have a deeper memory it could be the mid-2000s teams not having the speed to defend spread offenses.

I’m sorry.

This isn’t exactly fair to the Badger DBs. In modern football, teams pass the ball a ton and even the best secondaries are going to get beat. Georgia had a team for of 4 and 5 star athletes get shredded by Baker Mayfield for 287 yards in last year’s Rose Bowl. The 2014 Ohio State team that embarrassed Wisconsin DBs put up 256 passing yards a month later against Alabama. It happens, frequently.

This also isn’t to say the Badgers haven’t had some good DBs, they have. Tindal, Shelton, Dixon, Ikegwuonu, Leonhard, Fletcher, Echols, Vincent, etc. Those are some fun names. However on the whole, its not a controversial statement to say that when matching up with elite teams, the Badgers fall short here. Other positions often matchup fine - the OL and RBs rival anybody, the defensive front 7, depending on the year, stacks right up there with any. The Badgers have had some good QBs as well. The 2018 team is loaded with receivers and they have a pretty good history at that position.

DBs are a different story. Not only do the good teams have the athletes to test the secondary, they’re able to spread them out and force the Badgers to have 5 or 6 guys that all can run with the 4 and 5 star WRs they can throw at them. We’ve seen the Badgers struggle since, well, forever doing this. Nelson and Tindal were the best CB duo since Fletcher/Echols, but Ohio State is able to get Joe Ferguson isolated on a future NFL WR, and that was that.  

NFL Drafts are an imperfect way to look at college talent (see Jim Leonhard) but they haven’t put DBs into the NFL like they have other positions. In the past NFL draft, Nick Nelson and Natrell Jamerson joined Dez Southward and Jack Ikegwuonu as the only DBs drafted in the past decade.

This shows up in recruiting rankings as well. Since 2002, the average DB rating (247 composite) is .82. This is lowest among other positions recruited as heavily as DB.

 

  • WR:.84

  • OL: .86

  • DL: .85

  • LB: .83

 

Why is this? Common sense says there isn’t an in-state pipeline of DBs to rely on like there is for other positions, and common sense would be correct. Since 2002, only 18% of DBs are been from Wisconsin, whereas 32% of non-DB positions are from Wisconsin. The top in-state recruit at DB was Michael Trotter, a mid-3 star. Most of the ones they have recruited have been low 3 star or 2 star players.

So not only do they have to go out of state, they’ve got to go really out of state. Chryst has recently reached into Michigan, but its rare to get a DB from a bordering state.

Since 2002, the Badgers have gotten 30 four star recruits, just one was a DB - Jameson Wright in 2010, who lasted two years in the program. Its very difficult to pull guys that can write their own ticket anywhere, to spend winters in Madison.

With all the doom and gloom out of the way, looking at recent trends there are some some positive signs under Chryst. Of course we’re talking small samples here, but the average rating of a DB under Chryst is .85, bettering Bielema (.83), Andersen (.82) and late career, post-2002 Alvarez (.73) (the earliest dates reliable recruiting data is available).

 

What is Chryst doing different than his predecessors? A couple things jump out:

  • He is pulling guys from all over the country with 18 DBs from 11 different states

  • He’s recruiting taller athletes - only Madison Cone is shorter than 5’10” and most are 5’11’’ or taller

 

The recruiting nationally strategy is perhaps the most interesting. In many past recruiting cycles, the Badgers seem to be resigned to finding leftovers in Florida near signing day - some of these have been great, others not, either way it certainly seems more variable.  Chryst has been able to (from an outsider’s perspective) hit on Plan A type players rather than waiting to see what’s available as signing day nears.

Perhaps the second bullet point - finding taller players - makes it easier to find his “type” and pull in guys who fit the profile but might not be on National radars.

Comparatively - there isn’t much of a sample on Gary Andersen but he seemed to prefer JUCO DBs (McEvoy, Reynard, Trezy) and the “leftovers” in Florida. The leftovers here were actually pretty good - Dixon and Tinal had great careers.

Beilema suffered from bad misses and fits the “fighting for leftovers” strategy a bit more.  47% of his CB recruits left the program before their eligibility were out. He did fine with some top DBs, but the lack of depth there showed up too often.

That brings us to this year and why maybe it’ll all be ok in the defensive backfield.  

There was a lot of talk in spring about waiting for “the guy” to step up and take the #2 CB spot opposite DCW. Usually when no one separates its a bad thing, but this fall it feels a bit different. They’ve got many capable athletes all fighting for playing time - the optimistic take is that no one has separated because they’ll all decent players. We’ve heard Cesar Williams, Cone, Hicks and Harrell have all looked comfortable on the field. Maybe this is classic preseason optimism, but it feels a bit better than perhaps expected.

Even if the Badgers do have multiple guys step up this year, we’re certainly going to have some growing pains in 2018 with a very young secondary, perhaps awful, soul crushing growing pains, but for the first time in a while it seems like they’re inching closer to having the multiple bodies to compete with the big schools down the road.  

Even with better DB recruiting getting the 4 and 5 star guys at this position isn’t going to happen. Having the depth and numbers is going to be what upgrades the secondary, and this might just be happening.

 

Badgers' Non-Conference Schedule: Taking A Trip Down Memory Lane (& Looking Ahead)

By: Rex Sheild

Doctors, nurses, and the like constantly stress that excessively eating sweets, particularly cupcakes, is not a good habit to partake in. However, that has not stopped members of Automatic Qualifying (AQ)/Power-Five (P5) conferences from excessively divulging in their own form of cupcakes year after year. The Wisconsin Badgers are no exception.

As such, the team’s previous non-conference opponents were far from stellar dating back the last 15 years or so. Bucky would play host to teams like Cal Poly, Wofford, and Austin Peay while traveling to UNLV, Hawaii, and Fresno State, among others.

My personal favorites were those late-season games against the Rainbow Warriors, watching Ron Dayne or John Clay (or really whatever running back was at the helm for that particular year) run for a million yards, more or less, against an inferior defense.

Of course, over that same time span, the Badgers played teams from the traditional powerhouse conferences. For instance, they had home-and-home series with three Pac-12 teams: (1) Oregon, 2000 and 2001; (2) Arizona State, 2010 and 2013; and (3) Oregon State, 2011 and 2012. Not to mention, in direct correlation to the advent of the College Football Playoff, UW upped its game so to speak and began scheduling perennial powerhouses.

The Badgers played LSU at NRG Stadium in Houston in 2014, played Alabama at AT&T Stadium in 2015, and played LSU at Lambeau Field in 2016. While the latter game may not have helped Paul Chryst’s squad as much as they would have thought at the time, because LSU started the season in the top five and never cracked the top 12 after that game, the outcome still presumably put a feather in their cap in terms of the eye test for the CFB Playoff Committee.

Altogether, all three games stood as a win-win proposition regardless of the outcome. Lose the game? That was expected. Win the game? Praise the heavens above; the Badgers are a CFB Playoff sleeper! 

This year, for whatever reason, there were no win-win propositions during the non-conference slate. As you know, the non-conference slate did not churn out a perennial powerhouse or even a Power-5 program for that matter. Further evidence that this year’s slate was more of a misnomer relative to recent history: Saturday’s contest at BYU marked the first time since 2010 that the Badgers played a true road game against a non-P5 program.

On that scorching September 2010 night in Sin City, UW beat UNLV, 41-21. If you include the game against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in 2011, one that featured the Badgers as the road team, it was still six years since UW traveled to play a non-P5 program.

Instead, UW shelled out an obscene amount of money for the measly opponents to travel to Camp Randall Stadium. And as far as the 2017 regular season is concerned, Badgers paid $1.2 million to both Utah State and FAU, totaling $2.4 million. UW is not alone in that regard, either, as other P5 programs will spend roughly $150 million for “guarantee” games when the regular season is all said and done, according to USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz.

Regardless, Badger fans will have to come to terms with the following four scenarios related to future non-conference games over the next eight years, though this may be subject to change:

(1) Ten home games against non-P5 teams, which are all destined to be 11:00am kickoffs;

2018: Western Kentucky, New Mexico, BYU

2019: Central Michigan, Kent State

2020: Southern Illinois

2021: Army

2022: Hawaii

2023: Buffalo

2025: North Texas

(2) Two road games against non-P5 teams;

2019: South Florida

2024: Hawaii

(3) Three home-and-home series against P5 teams that are currently either somewhat decent (Virginia Tech and Washington State) or quite bad (Syracuse); and

2020 and 2021: Syracuse

2022 and 2023: Washington State

2024 and 2025: Virginia Tech

 (4) Two neutral-site games against Notre Dame

2020: Lambeau Field

2021: Soldier Field

While I am not a medical professional by any means, that schedule seems like a health scare waiting to happen. And from a fan's perspective, it may seem even worse. 

Let's Get Excited for the Cotton Bowl! (No really...please...because no one is)

The 2016 season was an interesting one for the Badgers. I, along with pretty much everyone else around the state and country, thought UW was going to be a middle-of-the-road team and a carbon copy of those 6-6 teams that former head coach Bret Bielema churned out early in his coaching career. Sure, the team would have some talent, but one would be foolish to think that they would come away unscathed with that schedule. We were all wrong, of course, as head coach Paul Chryst & Co. have climbed their way to 10 wins for the second consecutive season. On the flip side, whom did the Badgers really beat? Or, better yet, how many games did you feel like the team in red truly dominated from start to finish against a quality opponent?

Yes, Bucky can hang its hat on the fact that its three loses were each by seven points and against top-10 teams, but moral victories are about as useful, or actually useless, as participation trophies. To make matters worse, the game against Western Michigan presents itself as a no-win situation, which Rich smartly addressed on the latest podcast, but I’m here to tell you that – after much thought and meditation – there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe.

 While beating an undefeated team surely carries weight, a victory against Western Michigan would not exactly be marquee. To put it more bluntly, the Broncos’ strength of schedule as of 11/29 was literally the worst among the top-25, checking in at 118th. They have only beaten three teams with a winning record (Eastern Michigan, Ohio, and Toledo), which all conveniently lost their bowl game. Overall, their FBS opponents’ combined 2016 regular season record was 63-82 (.434).

Therefore, if UW beats Western Michigan at Jerry’s World, it is hard not to have the following response, “Well, yeah, the Badgers should beat a MAC team that played nobody all year, so what is there to get excited about?” I would bet that Florida State fans had similar sentiments when the Seminoles played and ultimately defeated Northern Illinois in the 2013 Orange Bowl, and they are now on the verge of losing three-straight bowl games for the first time in program history. But, what about if P.J. Fleck & Co. beat Wisconsin? There are many that will consider it a bad loss, a sign that the Badgers simply aren’t ready to be a national contender.

Altogether, whether the Badgers are playing WMU, Oklahoma, or Incarnate Word, Monday’s bowl victory will actually be quite meaningful from a global perspective. That is, Wisconsin has only won three-straight bowl games in as many years once in its 27-game bowl history (1998 Rose Bowl, 1999 Rose Bowl, and 2000 Sun Bowl).

Riding a two-game winning streak in bowl play, this year’s squad can, therefore, become the second team to achieve that feat. And after losing four-straight bowl games spanning from the 2010 to 2013 regular season (three Rose Bowls + Capital One Bowl), including six out of seven, fans should not take a bowl victory for granted. It is, after all, a New Year’s Six Bowl Game, too.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox and actually write about what I promised Rich and Max – a preview of the Cotton Bowl, presented by Goodyear Tires (#branding).

Offense

Without a doubt, the Broncos’ calling card is their explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball. Three-year starting quarterback Zach Terrell has completed a career-high 71% of his passes, throwing for 3,376 yards to go along with a career-high 32 TDs & career-low three INTs. As to how the gunslinger stacks up with the other quarterbacks across the country, Terrell is fourth in Passing Efficiency (180.6) and 10th in Total QBR (81.9). The difference between Passing Efficiency and Total QBR is as follows, according to ESPN: “Unlike NCAA Passer Efficiency, which uses only box score statistics, Total QBR accounts for what a quarterback does on a play-by-play level, meaning it accounts for down, distance, field position, as well as the clock and score.”

Still, Terrell will be the best QB that the Badgers have faced this season in terms of Total QBR, as Michigan’s Wilton Speight is ranked 20th; PSU’s Trace McSorley is ranked 31st; OSU’s J.T. Barrett is ranked 38th; and Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, Jr. is ranked 42nd. Speaking of McSorley, senior outside linebacker Vince Biegel told Jason Galloway earlier this week that there are a lot of offensive similarities between the Broncos and Nittany Lions, in particular “big-play capability.”

In case you need a friendly reminder, McSorley threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns, with a large chunk of that coming in the second half. What was particularly concerning, and something that the UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox *probably* stressed throughout bowl prep, was the number of long passes that the Badgers’ secondary allowed in the Big Ten Championship Game. On their first possession of the second half, the Nittany Lions ran one play and turned it into a 70-yard touchdown completion. On their third possession, McSorley completed passes of 38 yards, 25 yards, and 18 yards, the latter of which resulted in a touchdown. (If you want to bring about some unwanted anger/frustration, check out the play-by-play breakdown of the second half. Woof.).  

Penn State’s wide receivers made their fair share of plays, as Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton both eclipsed 115 receiving yards. I am not entirely sure whether WMU’s receiving corp is better than Penn State’s receiving corp or not, but it certainly has more star power. Specifically, senior Corey Davis, who is looking to become the first MAC wide receiver selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since Randy Moss, will finish his career as the leader in NCAA career receiving yards (5,205). Not to mention, his 18 touchdowns this season rank second in the country, while his 1,427 receiving yards rank ninth in the country.

Michael Henry, who is listed at 5-foot-11, is second on the team in receptions (61) and yards (760). Senior Carrington Thompson is second on the team in touchdowns (6) but has only registered 38 receptions for 605 yards. It is important to point out that Davis, Henry, and Thompson all have receptions of over 50 yards, meaning that Terrell is not afraid to chuck it deep. Let’s see whether UW’s secondary plays the ball this time around.

But, in my opinion, the Badgers will win their third-straight bowl game if they get pressure on the quarterback and do so on a consistent basis. As Rich and Max noted during the Preview podcast, the defensive line was gassed in the second half against Penn State (injuries/lack of depth didn’t help matters, either). The pass rush, as a result, was almost entirely absent. I should give credit where credit is due, though – Penn State’s offensive line in regards to pass blocking is pretty solid overall; their adjusted sack rate (sacks divided by (sacks plus passes)) per Football Outsiders is 128.4 (31st). Similarly, Western Michigan‘s adjusted sack rate is 125.9 (34th). To a greater extent, the Broncos have allowed 1.08 sacks per game, which is tied for 12th.  

In turn, the unit’s play has opened up several holes for the Broncos’ rushing attack. Led by Illinois native Jarvion Franklin, the junior running back totaled 1,300 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 241 carries (5.4 yards/carry). Jamauri Bogan holds a similar yards-per-carry average (5.3) while accumulating 865 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Terrell can also make plays with his legs, registering six touchdowns on the ground. However, the Badgers should be able to neutralize Franklin & Co. The defensive unit ranks second in rush defense, allowing a mere 96.9 rush yards/game.

One last thing, which may be a “No sh*t, Rex” anecdote: I truly do not think that the defense’s second half performance accurately represents what they bring to the table. It is easy to forget, but the Badgers held the aforementioned, top-QBR gunslingers – excluding McSorley – to an average of 53.3% completion rate, 198.3 passing yards, less than one touchdown (0.67), and just over one interception (1.33). Ultimately, then, something has to give.

Defense

The Broncos’ defense is not nearly as efficient as its offense – OK, not really at all – but they are a solid group collectively. WMU’s scoring defense allows 19.5 points per game, good for 14th in the country, while they allow a total of 353 yards per game, good for 27th.  Digging a little deeper, the team’s defensive front struggled throughout the 2016 season. They only averaged two sacks per game (71st) and 5.3 tackles for loss per game (93rd). Moreover, they allowed an average of 151.2 rush yards per game, which ranks 47th.

Even more so, WMU’s defensive unit struggled against FBS teams with a winning record during the regular season (Eastern Michigan, Ohio, and Toledo). In total, they allowed an average of 135 rushing yards, 254 passing yards, and roughly 30 points per game. Toledo, who owned the best regular season record among the aforementioned teams, produced the most consistent offensive numbers against the Broncos, totaling 227 yards on the ground and 229 yards through the air. The Rockets also put up 35 points, yet they lost by 20 in Kalamazoo.

Nevertheless, the player that represents the biggest challenge for UW’s offensive line is senior defensive end Keion Adams. The second-team all-MAC selection leads the team in tackles for loss (17), sacks (7.5), quarterback hits (12), and forced fumbles (3). The offensive line will also have to keep an eye out for inside linebacker Robert Spillane, who joined Adams as a second-team all-conference selection. The Oak Park, Ill., native leads the team in tackles with 105 and was second on the team in tackles for loss (9) and interceptions (3).

Speaking of the latter, cornerback Darius Phillips is the leader of the Broncos’ secondary, reeling in a team-high four interceptions while returning three for a touchdown. He also leads the team in pass deflections with nine. Not to mention, the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year totaled two touchdowns in that phase of the game, one as a kick returner and the other as a punt returner. 

Prediction

Do I hope it’s a blowout? Absolutely. Do I think it’s going to be a blowout? Not exactly. WMU will keep it close in the first half because Fleck’s pre-game speech of “None of you guys even sniffed a scholarship offer from Wisconsin, so go out and prove you deserved one!” will light a fire under their tails. But at the end of the day, the cream always rises to the top, which means that UW will gain some separation in the second half by relying on the run game and dialing up timely blitzes on the opposite side of the ball. 

One last tidbit for good measure: Per OddsShark, the Badgers have won their last 17 games against MAC teams and are 11-6 against the spread in such games. As of this writing, the good guys are 8-point favorites.

35-20, UW

 

Biscuits Does Ann Arbor, Michigan

David, aka @wiscoinferno on Twitter, gives us the goods on his trip to Michigan last week

 

Ever since moving to the great city of Chicago in May 2014, it has been a somewhat serious goal of mine to attend Badger games at all 14 Big Ten venues. As a Big Ten and general college football fan, one of the places that has always been at the top of my list is Ann Arbor and Michigan Stadium. Plus, I have always wanted to check out different campuses when the opportunity presents itself and the University of Michigan did not disappoint.

As for Michigan Wolverines football, after taking a break from their spot as one of the top Big Ten teams (and hiring some terrible head coaches), Go Blue is back and ready for a run at the playoffs.  So why wouldn’t I want to attend a Badger game in Ann Arbor?

 Afternoon Delight!

Afternoon Delight!

Driving about 250 miles east, I arrived in Ann Arbor late on Friday night.  My morning began with an outstanding breakfast at Afternoon Delight Café (the biscuits and gravy were superb) about one mile north of Michigan Stadium. I was pleasantly surprised to see the restaurant filled with about 30% Badger fans.

The area around campus reminds me a lot of Madison.  Smoke shops, eclectic eateries, clothing stores, and of course, legal speakeasies are scattered about its beautifully green environs.  Don’t hate me for this, but my one huge complaint about Wisconsin’s campus is how spread out it is - Michigan, at least its undergraduate campus, is the exact opposite.  Beautiful lawns and walkways lead to both old and new academic buildings.  On this day, the campus was electric, and very, very drunk.  I saw fans both young and old drinking Detroit Lions-themed Bud Lights and carrying handles of unsealed booze, something that surprised me (can't do that in Chicago or Madison!).  These people LOVE their Wolverines and their alcohol.

 The Big House, pre-game

The Big House, pre-game

 The Wisconsin demo car

The Wisconsin demo car

Making my way to the game, I passed raucous fraternity houses and apartments in a sea of Maize and Blue.  One of the fraternity houses even had a red spray painted junk yard vehicle with Wisconsin written all over it in their front yard to destroy.   Needing to get in the college football spirit with all these underagers and free-spirited football fans, I stopped by Quickie Burger, not for food, but for the cheap pitchers of Leinie’s Summer Shandy.  After polishing it off in less than a half hour, I made my way to Michigan Stadium.

To be honest, the Big House didn’t feel as massive as it looks on TV. There was plenty of space in the concession/restroom area around the outer part of the stadium.  Our seats were opposite the student section and we were surrounded by Michigan fans.  They were incredibly mild mannered and even friendly throughout the game even though it was so close from the first kickoff.  I really envied their crowd participation during band sequences, actual game play, and during timeouts.  It was a crazy atmosphere from start to finish, and was a loud and intimidating atmosphere, at least for a Badger fan in a sea of Maize and Blue.

Obviously the outcome of the game was not what I was hoping but Ann Arbor was so much fun to experience on a football Saturday, I didn’t really care that Bucky lost (maybe it was my eternal pessimism).

 Panoramic

Panoramic

My one bit of advice from the weekend: if the opportunity presents itself, GO FOR IT. On, Wisconsin my BuckAround Bros (and gals)!

End of an Era: Is it Time to Retire the Paul Chryst 4th Down Watch?

"DC Dan" emailed the show with a detailed analysis of Paul Chryst's 4th down decision making. Last year Dan was less than impressed with Chryst in this regard as he thought he was too conservative in this regard, opting for the punt or field goal at times when attempting the 1st down conversion seemed like the more appropriate decision. 

However, Dan seems to think Chryst views things differently this season. Since Dan's email was look long to fully integrate into the show, we present it in it's entirety here. He also throws a little quarterback discussion in at the end to boot!

 

As I mentioned in my tweet, it may be time to retire the Paul Chryst Fourth Down Watch if we have more games like this one.  Below is my assessment of the fourth down decisions made against MSU:

The "Hell Yes" section:

  • 4th-and-1 from the MSU 41 (4:47 1st): Ingold rush for 6 yards.
  • 4th-and-1 from the MSU 3 (1:28 1st): Ingold rush for 2 yards.

These were big, and both came in the first quarter "statement drive" -- the Badgers' second drive of the game -- that resulted in the touchdown from which they would not look back.  I know they didn't have Gaglianone, but I don't think that was much of a factor in either decision.  Chryst probably isn't going to kick a field goal from the 41 even with Rafa's leg available, and I'm sure Chryst would have sent out Endicott to put the ball in from 3 yards out had he wanted it.  The bottom line is that Chryst trusted his offensive line to get the one yard in both cases, which was absolutely the correct call, and that "set the tone" (I hate that cliché) for the rest of the game.

 

The "Would Have Been Gutsy" section:

  • 4th-and-2 from the WIS 28 (11:21 2nd): Lotti punt for 47 yd.
  • 4th-and-3 from the MSU 23 (4:58 3rd): Endicott made 41 yd. field goal.

There's an argument to be made that you should almost always go for it if it's fourth-and-2 or less no matter where you are on the field, especially if you a) have a relatively high expected conversion rate on short yardage (which I believe the Badgers do), or b) need to employ high-variance strategies since you're an underdog.  In this game, 'A' applies, but 'B' does not, as I think the Badgers and Spartans were basically evenly matched going in, so punting from your own 28 is probably the smarter move.  Chryst also decided to go for the points to put the Badgers up by three scores in the third quarter, which shows that he at least had some faith in Endicott's leg, and he probably would have gone for it on those first quarter fourth downs even had Gaglianone been available.

 

The "I Would Have Gone" section:

  • 4th-and-6 from the MSU 35 (9:54 4th): Lotti punt for 27 yd.

Here's the only spot where not having Gaglianone maybe made a difference, as a long field goal try probably makes more sense than a short punt.  This is right in the heart of no-man's land, where I would probably go for it on almost any distance if I didn't have a great kicker available.  The game was basically over at this point, though, so who really cared?

 

The "No Brainer" section:

  • 4th-and-9 from the WIS 12 (14:11 3rd): Lotti punt for 38 yd.
  • 4th-and-4 from the MSU 44 (12:32 4th): MSU penalty for 5 yd.
  • 4th-and-5 from the MSU 49 (4:46 4th): Lotti punt for 44 yd.
  • 4th-and-2 from the WIS 26 (1:36 4th): Lotti punt for 48 yd.

These are pretty self-explanatory.  One of them worked out anyway thanks to a penalty, and the final fourth down Wisconsin faced in this game was with so little time left on the clock that it wouldn't have been worth the risk to potentially set MSU up for a garbage TD.

 

 

Quarterbacks Analysis:

Finally, I figured we had enough information on both QBs to do a quick numbers check on how they stack up so far.  Further, both players have seen time against the same opponents, aside from LSU and MSU.  You could argue that LSU has a tougher defense than MSU, but without any advanced team stats at my fingertips, I'm inclined to call it even.

  • Hornibrook:  29 / 43, 8.8 YD/ATT, 13.0 YD/COM
  • Houston:  44 / 71, 7.4 YD/ATT, 12.0 YD/COM

On a per-attempt basis, Hornibrook is outpacing Houston by over a yard, and he's also better than Houston on his completed passes by exactly a yard on average.  I find that second point (yards per completion) somewhat interesting, because Houston is supposed to be the one with the bigger arm, so you might expect that he would complete fewer short passes and more passes downfield, but that's not the case. 

Finally, my favorite passing stat (adjusted net yards per pass attempt, which factors in sacks, picks, and touchdowns) shows a clear lead for Hornibrook:

  • Hornibrook:  7.5 ANY/A
  • Houston:  6.0 ANY/A

Hornibrook's ANY/A was down a bit against MSU (5.6), but still not as low as Houston's was against LSU (3.1).  As much as some of their other numbers look similar, there's not much doubt in my mind that Hornibrook is the superior passer.  I'll look at the numbers again next week, when Hornibrook will have played against another very difficult opponent in Michigan, and his number of attempts will be closer to Houston's current total.

A Non-Hate Filled Georgia State Preview (because you have no idea who they are)

by Dillon in Virginia a.k.a. Dillon in Pennsylvania a.k.a. the angriest BuckAround listener there is.

So, without further ado I present Georgia State. From my research I learned they are the Panthers, and the school is in Atlanta. Their football program was founded in 2010 and began in FCS, and then moved to the Sun Belt in FBS in 2013. In 2015 the Panthers surprisingly made a bowl where they lost to San Jose State to finish 6-7. So now we get to this season. I'll be honest I did not watch any of their games, I just looked at some stats and internet articles and a few select few highlight clips. But here is my best shot. They lost 31-21 to Ball State and 48-14 t Air Force.

The Panthers run a dual QB system, although Grad Transfer Conner Lynch is the primary passer. Aaron Winchester comes in and appears to be their version of Tanner McEvoy. Manning is passing at 51.8% this year for 298 yds in 2 games vs Ball State & Air Force. Winchester is 5/11 passing for 39 yds.

The two primary receiving options are Robert Davis and Penny Hart, supposedly a decent WR combo in the Sun Belt according to Athlon's preview. Rushing wise Georgia State frankly sucks. In 2 games vs Ball State & Air Force they have rushed 39 times for 104 yds, for an amazing 2.7 ypc. Air Force held the Panthers to 27 yards on 14 attempts, for a 1.9 ypc. From what I can tell, they suck in all facets of offense, but they're maybe slightly less sucky passing the ball.

Defensively both Ball State & Air Force rushed the ball a ton and did it effectively. Ball State had 325 yds rushing with a 6.3 ypc and 4 TDs, Air Force had 464 yds rushing with a 5.6 ypc and 5 TDs. Neither had any reason to pass so I have no idea how good the Panthers' pass D is. (and Air Force never tries to pass anyway with that offense). I'd like to think Bradrich Shaw should be running wild on the Panthers D by mid-3rd Quarter.

Long story short, Georgia State is a team that Akron would likely beat handily. Offensively they suck in all areas, only way they should score is if the Badger offense gives them something. I hope and expect UW to be up by 40pts+ by the end of the first half and I expect to see the backups play most of if not all the second half. We could probably put up 70+ easily on them but I expect Chryst to milk the clock and unofficialy implement a mercy rule of sorts on the Panthers. Badgers win 62-0. The 2 FGs occur in the 2nd half w/the backups and occur due to penalties setting back the Badger offense, not the Panthers D.

Akron Review - Yes, an Akron Review

by Andy Schaaf

The only thing more desperate than an Akron preview is and Akron review, so that’s where we’re at today. The Badgers took care of business on a day when not everyone (hello Clemson and Georgia!) had it so easy.

These games are ultimately silly to draw much in terms of conclusions -- remember, Tanner McEvoy owns the Badger record for consecutive completions -- but they do add to what we saw last week and give us more to work with as the Badgers move on to face Michigan State in a couple weeks.

So with that said, let’s overreact to some stuff:

 

Hornibrook throws a pretty deep ball, Houston does not

 

This isn’t breaking news as it is in line with what we saw at the Spring Game and in Fall practice reports. Bart Houston seems to have one trajectory on his passes - a line drive, while Alex Hornibrook showed some nice touch on a ball to A.J. Taylor and on a deep ball to Quintez Cephus that drew a pass interference penalty.

 

That was the perfect time to use Hornibrook

 

Facing a MAC defense with eight or nine in the box loaded up for the run in the 3rd quarter is the perfect scenario for Hornibrook. At this point he at least seems like the ideal guy to run play action and chuck it deep or go through one or two reads in a progression.

That’s the type of stuff that’s wide open in these early games but works much less when Michigan or Ohio State can stop the run with seven or even six in the box and force the QB to get the ball into much tighter spaces.

Throughout camp we heard how close the two QBs were and there seems to be a lot of truth to that, but what we saw yesterday from Hornibrook doesn’t change much.

 

There’s a big drop off between Clement and the rest of the RBs

 

Again, not breaking any news here but the running game looked a lot like last year in the first half when Clement was out. The coaching staff clearly saw it too, which is the only way one can explain why Clement got 21 carries in the first half. Speaking of RBs…

 

Bradrick Shaw is the future at the RB position

 

I kid, I kid, but it was nice to see some burst from him when the game was over. If you’re like me, you’re slightly worried about the RB position in a post-Clement world, so it shows they at least have something to work with.

 

The Badgers finally have some WRs

 

They aren’t at that level yet, but for the first time since Toon and Abbrederis manned the position the Badgers have two legit WR options with Peavy and Wheelwright.

We’re even a full third of the way to the over on the prop bet competition with the Freshman WRs! It is hard to read too much into their performances, but as I mentioned in the Akron preview, it was a good chance to get them some reps, and that’s what happened on Saturday. Both Cephus and Taylor look like good players down the road, if it's too much to project much for them this year.

 

The loss of Natrell Jamerson is significant

 

This is a much bigger deal than losing linebacker Chris Orr. Jamerson had a unique role on the defense where he was tasked with playing up on the line and making tackles while also guarding WRs out on the edge - before his injury, he was matched up on Jerome Lane on the outside quite a bit while Sojourn Shelton took the slot guy.

There’s often a big learning curve with DBs and the Badgers don’t have an experienced guy who can fill in for him. It won’t affect them against all teams, but Jamerson was basically a starting DB against spread teams.

 

Touchback Watch

 

Let’s end on a lighter note. Kickoff specialist P.J. Rosowski had 5 touchbacks on Saturday to bring his season total to 8 - UW had 13 touchbacks all of last year. This will be an over/under next year.