We are only two days away from kicking off the 2013 season against UMass. With the match-up (and next week’s as well) there should not be a ton of specific things to watch. If we notice anything negative in these first two games, it could be an omen for a long season, as neither team should expose anything on the Badgers.
With that said, here are five things to watch for on Saturday.
1) Are the Badgers going to come out strong?
Nobody is giving UMass a shot in the game, and rightfully so. To make this a reality, Wisconsin needs to come out strong and show the Minutemen that they don’t have a shot in the game. While it’s obviously not crucial, a touchdown on the first offensive drive and a stop on the first defensive drive will show that the Badgers are not overlooking their first opponent.
Also, as we saw last year against Northern Iowa, the longer you let an inferior opponent in the game, the more confident it gets. If the score after the first quarter is something like 7-0 or 10-3, UMass will feel as they are in the game. It’s important to come out right away and end any thought of an upset.
2) How will the quarterback situation look?
One of, if not the biggest question heading into the season deals with the quarterback position. The first thing to watch for will be who is starting. Along with this will be seeing if Andersen wants to have the quarterbacks share time. Against UMass, every quarterback that he wants to see should be able to take some snaps.
Other than just looking at the personnel will be seeing how they look against a weaker defense. It is important to solidify the passing game for a number of reasons, and these first two games should help with the timing and chemistry of the quarterbacks and receivers.
3) How will the new 3-4 defense look?
I’m hoping this is fun to watch. It is a huge change from what we’ve seen in the past, but the 3-4 opens up a lot of opportunities for stunts and other plays that we haven’t seen.
The main thing is to see how comfortable they look. Against a team like UMass, the lack of playing an actual game in a 3-4 shouldn’t matter that much. If the Minutemen are able to pick apart the defense, it could mean trouble down the road.
While they play every card they have in the deck? That’s the fourth item to look for in Saturday’s game.
4) Can the Badgers work on new schemes and systems without giving too much away?
Early season games against inferior opponents can be challenging on the game plan front. There are sets and systems that a coach wants to see run live against an opponent and early in the year is the best time to start this. On the other side of the coin, though, is the fact that the game shouldn’t call for anything too out of the ordinary.
With a new coach and system, there will be lots that opposing Big Ten teams do not have on tape yet. How much does Andersen want to show in these first two games? It reminds me of the Montee Ball to Russell Wilson touchdown in the Indiana game two years ago. At the time there were questions as to why they would show that play in a blowout, but it forced future opponents to game plan for one more option.
It will be interesting to see what Andersen gives away, if anything.
5) Will the Badgers stay healthy?
Hopefully this is the most important topic to watch for on Saturday. Ideally, the offense and defense will both look good and we can worry about specific questions later. In a game that should be a wipe-out, it can be impossibly frustrating to lose someone to an injury.
This can also be combatted by getting a big enough lead early that the starters can rest. It works twofold, as the starters are able to avoid injury and the back-ups are able to get experience for if they are needed in the future.
Are there things you'll be watching for that we haven't listed? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below.