Itâ€™s that time of year again! Wisconsin Badgers football is back and weâ€™re talking about actual games here folks. That means its also time to give you the most in-depth coverage and opinions of every game opponent on the web, in our series titled “opposition research.”
Weâ€™ll give you the inside scoop on the opponent for each week and the keys to Badgers success on each side of the ball.
Up first is our look at No. 3 Alabama and their vaunted Lane Kiffin-led offense.
Should the Badgers be worried, scared or hopeful heading in to this critical Week 1 matchup? Letâ€™s dive head first in to a look at the Crimson Tide offense.
Starters:Â (2014 season stats/honors)
WR (Z):Â ArDarius Stewart - So. (6-1, 204) â€” 12 receptions, 149 yards, 0 touchdowns
WR (X):Â Robert Foster - So. (6-2, 194) â€” 6 receptions, 44 yards, 0 touchdownsÂ
WR (H):Â Richard Mullaney - Sr. (6-3, 208) â€” 18 receptions, 216 yards, 1 touchdown (played at Oregon State)Â
LT:Â Cam Robinson - So. (6-6, 326) â€” 14 starts, 3 sacks in 861 snaps, 32 knockdown blocks, Freshman All-American (Sporting News & FWAA), Outland Trophy watch list (2015)
LG:Â Ross Pierschbacher - Fr. (6-4, 298) â€” making 1st career startÂ
C:Â Ryan Kelly - Sr. (6-5, 297) â€” 12 starts (two-year starter at center), 0 sacks allowed, Rimington Award watch list (2015)
RG:Â Alphonse Taylor - Jr. (6-5, 325) â€” 2 starts, 12 games played
RG:Â Bradley Bozeman - So. (6-5, 320) â€” 2 starts, 9 games played
RT:Â Dominick Jackson - Sr. (6-6, 315) â€” 8 games played as a JUCO transferÂ
RB:Â Derrick Henry - Jr. (6-3, 242) â€” 990 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, 11 touchdowns, 70.7 yards per game
QB:Â Jake Coker - Sr. (6-5, 232) â€”38 of 59, 64.4 comp. %, 403 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
QB:Â Cooper Bateman - So. (6-3, 220) â€” N/A
QB:Â Alec Morris - Jr. (6-3, 233) â€” N/A
TE:Â Dakota Ball - Jr. (6-3, 254) â€” 12 games played, 0 receptions
TE (H): O.J. Howard - Jr. (6-6, 242) â€” 17 receptions, 260 yardsÂ
Alabama Offense Rankings: (Stat/SEC/National)Â *according to CFBstats.com
Total Offense:Â 484.5ypg/3rd/18th
Scoring Offense:Â 36.9ppg/2nd/16th
Passing Offense:Â 277.9ypg/4h/29th
Rushing Offense:Â 206.6ypg/6th/37th
Badgers Defense Rankings:Â (Stat/B1G/National)
Total Defense:Â 294.1ypg/2nd/4th
Scoring Defense:Â 20.8ppg/2nd/17th
Passing Defense:Â 168.0ppg/1st/4th
Rushing Defense:Â 126.1ypg/4th/23rd
3 Keys to Badgers Success:
1. Kiffin Canâ€™t Outwork Aranda: One of the least talked-about matchups in this game is the chess match between Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and Wisconsin defensive coordinator. Put aside the un-likability of Kiffin, the fact is the guy can flat out coach an offense. What Alabama did on offense last season was remarkable, and a lot of the credit goes to Kiffin.
The same can be said of Aranda and his defenses at Wisconsin, where the transition from the 4-3 defense of the past 20-plus years to his exotic 3-4 schemes was virtually seamless. So much so that UW became one of the best defenses in the country last season and many of the key parts to that defense are back and a year better. However, one of the biggest reasons for its success is Arandaâ€™s ability to win the chess match with the opposition, and that has to happen in this game if UW is to win.
2. Turnovers, Turnovers Turnovers: Hereâ€™s a harsh reality of Wisconsinâ€™s defense â€” as great as it was at stopping the run and passing game, it couldâ€™ve been even more amazing if it could find a way to force more than just 16 turnovers (6 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles).
Part of that equation comes from the secondary, which ranked second to last in the Big Ten with its six interceptions. Reports out of fall camp indicate that junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton is back to his old habits, while junior safety Leo Musso has been a turnover machine all fall camp long. If that is the case during the season, Wisconsin could be in some serious business on defense.
As for this contest, it means the Badgers need to take advantage of a new starting quarterback…whomever that is going to be. With an experienced and hungry secondary up against an inexperienced quarterback and an average group of Alabama wide receivers this is a matchup ripe for the picking (pun intended).
3. Take the Running Game Away: Alabama is much like Wisconsin, in so much as the running game opens everything else up for the offense. Shut it down and the offense canâ€™t take advantage of matchups it would like to explode. Derrick Henry is a very good back and Alabamaâ€™s rushing game could be strong once again, but with an offensive line working in three new starters the Badgers have a fighting chance at stopping the run game. Even slowing it down a bit could be enough to make this an interesting matchup.