It’s almost here. Time for us to see what Wisconsin football has this year. Saturday night will show a lot about the Badgers and whether or not they have a legitimate shot at making it four Big Ten Championships in a row. It’s going to be a tough, it’s going to be stressful, let’s just hope it’s fun as well.
Here are five things to watch for in this early-season match-up of two BCS bowl hopefuls.
1) How will Wisconsin handle the early adversity?
And there will be adversity. It’s a night game, in the desert, against a solid opponent. The athletic department has been promoting the game for weeks and they are going with a blackout. If the Sun Devils don’t come out fired up, they’ve got serious problems.
I want to see how Stave handles his first third down play. I want to see how the defense handles a competent offense on its first drive. An early deficit won’t be disastrous, in fact I kind of expect it, but if Wisconsin is able to hold off Arizona State early and get the crowd out of it, it will be a completely different ballgame.
2) Will the three-headed monster at running back keep it up?
I know Andersen is going to add his tweaks to the offense, but after two games, it looks as though he knows he still has a good thing at running back. Arizona State didn’t have the strongest run defense last year and hasn’t played anyone this year to see if it’s improved. On the same side, Wisconsin hasn’t played anyone either, so it’s yet to be seen if all three running backs will be able to run at will like they have been.
I’m predicting they all still get their carries, but we see a little drop off in production. Not an Oregon State game drop off in production, but a little. Overall, the running backs need to put the offense in convertible third downs, as the crowd will make changes at the line difficult.
3) Who will step up alongside Abbrederis?
Abbrederis is a solid wide receiver, and that’s enough against some of the schools on the schedule. It won’t be against tough defenses. The Badgers need someone to step up to take some of the coverage off of Abbrederis. If there is a second threat that needs to be contained, it will make Abbrederis even better. And that’s a scary thought for future opponents.
I still expect most of the looks to go to him or to the tight ends, but let’s see who else Stave targets on Saturday.
4) What has Dave Aranda been hiding?
Here’s the game to start pulling out all the tricks in the book. Coming into the season, switching to a 3-4 defense was the biggest change in an off-season that included a lot of them. Aranda is a creative defensive coordinator, but he has yet to show it due to the lack of competition from both UMass and Tennessee Tech. He’s going to have to draw up something to stop the tough attack of Arizona State. Look for him to unleash Borland a lot more than we’ve seen to try to disrupt Sun Devil plays before they begin.
5) Will the kicking game work itself out?
Andersen has been pretty candid in his talks about the kicking game not being where they want it. In a game that figures to be close, a missed extra point or field goal could be the difference between winning and losing. Let’s hope it was a good week at practice and either Kyle French or Jack Russell steps up and makes that big kick.
It’s not going to be easy, but I have faith that the Badgers can be the first Big Ten school to ever win at Arizona State.
Are there things you'll be watching for that we haven't listed? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below.