by Andy Schaaf
Analyzing the Badgers after a huge win is always difficult. It is hard to criticize OL penalties when the OL is going against an elite defensive unit. It is hard to get *too* mad at the QB for throwing awful picks when those awful picks are in a win in his first college start at Lambeau Field against a top 5 team, or call out a RB for leaving yards on the field.
We do, and should analyze the game, both positive and negative aspects, but its just so easy to excuse the negative and over-hype the positive. I’ll admit I’m guilty of this myself, rolling my eyes at the red zone “problems” articles this week. Come on, they played LS freaking U.
With all that as a preface, the Badgers have a couple games that will go the opposite way in terms of how we look at them. They’ll be expected to win and expected to win big. Anything that prevents this big win from happening will be someone’s fault and we’ll create narratives from there. A chop block penalty won’t be excused, a dumb INT definitely won’t be excused and the luster will come off Wilcox if they give up a 20+ points to Akron.
With this hyper analysis in mind, there are a few things I’m specifically looking forward to seeing on Saturday against the Zips
Bart Houston and the dumb INTs. Houston has now played in 2 college games and has 4 awful INTs. While dumb, they’re somewhat excusable given the circumstances, but there will be no excuse for the dumb INT on Saturday.
George Rushing. While early, this feels like a big game for Rushing. After the fumble against LSU, will the coaching staff have the confidence to go back to him, and will Rushing have the confidence to make plays? This feels like a point in the season (already) where the Badgers could decide to focus on Peavy, Wheelwright and Fumagali, or they can expand options and get Rushing `involved
Freshman WRs. Speaking of expanding the passing attack, this seems like an early opportunity to find out if the duo of Taylor and Cephus will have a role outside of spotting the starters on running plays and the occasional jet sweep.
Offensive Line. The reviews of the line were almost universally positive after LSU and give most optimism going forward. This is a game where Badgers should dominate on the ground and only have to pass as a last resort. They did not dominate these games last year, just 188 yards on 45 carries against Miami (Oh) and 199 yards on 38 carries against Troy. It would be somewhat reassuring as a fan to see the Badgers come out and put up 250+ yards and control the game on the ground.
Wilcox vs The Spread. One of the strengths of a Dave Aranda defense was how they completely dominated against spread offenses from weaker teams. Spread offeneses embarrassed the Badgers in the early 2000s (Antwaan Randle El just scored again) and they continued to have some problems since then with a variety of Defensive Coordinators. That all stopped with Aranda’s 3-4. The same players are mostly in place so there shouldn’t be any reason to suspect it becomes a problem this year, but it is worth monitoring.
Safety Play Outside of the INT, Dixon had some struggles against LSU. Musso played better than most thought but wasn’t tested often. Akron will spread it out and put them in some 1 on 1 situations. It will be a good barometer of where the safety group is at.
Depth There were a decent amount of rotations against LSU, but Akron should allow them to loosen the rotations even more. Tawain Deal should get more carries, more defensive players should get reps and more Freshman like Garret Rand some playing time. Maybe we’ll get an Alex Hornibrook appearance. We’ll be able to get a decent feel for the overall strengths and weaknesses of some of the guys we didn’t see much of last week.
Injuries Oh my God please nobody get hurt, that’s ultimately all that really matters.