Sunday, September 01, 2013

Wisconsin Badger Football: What We Know

Already covered the Gophers. Now it's Wisconsin's turn.

Here's what we know about the Badgers.

The coach changes, but the mentality doesn't.

There have been some rumblings out of Madison that indicate Gary Andersen is going to be easier on the local beat writers than Bret Bielema was. Outside of that, not much is changing.

Andersen wants this team to play strong defense and run the hell out of the ball. Sound familiar?

The Badgers aren't going spread/five wide/throw 60 times a game anytime soon, unless you control the team in a video game. And even then it would look weird.

We don't know who the quarterback is.

I'd love to provide insight here, but I can't. I think both Joel Stave and Curt Phillips are going to see time in the first two games, which are presumed layups against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech. Andersen knows he has to figure out which guy is his guy before a Sept. 14 game at Arizona State.

Stave has a good arm, but has yet to show consistent accuracy, especially deep. Phillips doesn't have the arm strength, but he's a better runner. With a consistent deep threat in Jared Abbrederis, there's no reason Wisconsin can't be effective throwing the ball. And the better UW is in that regard, the more openings guys like James White and Melvin Gordon will have to carry the rock.

White and Gordon are both good, but Gordon will be the man by the end of the season.

The running game will survive without Montee Ball. White knows this offense inside and out, but Gordon is going to end up being the bell cow. He has decent enough size, but his speed is off the charts. He'll break more big plays than White, and while the temptation will be to limit his carries early, that big-time big-play potential will win Gordon about a 60 percent share of the carries he and White get by midseason.

The defense will be very good.

I like some of the pieces on this defense, most notably Ethan Armstrong and Chris Borland. Bielema was such a highly-touted defensive coach that it's easy to dismiss Andersen's credentials in that area. Coordinator Dave Aranda will dial up the right mix of fronts and coverages to confuse quarterbacks and put players in good positions.

I don't know what the ceiling of this team is.

I could see the Badgers posting another 8-5 type season. Really, I could, and I don't think it would be a grand disappointment.

It's also conceivable that UW could win 11 games, losing only to Ohio State (sorry, I don't see it happening). I'm not sure Andersen could ask for a better debut.

No matter what, much of Wisconsin's success is going to ride on the arm of someone. Probably Stave, because he has all the upside at this point.

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