Did you know the Wisconsin football team is battling the flu? The story has been more than a little overplayed this week, even generating some national buzz. Still, the illness that has swept across the UW campus and much of the country could have a profound impact on Saturday's game against Fresno State at Camp Randall Stadium.
I worry most about the endurance of the defense. Many of the players on the two-deep have not practiced every day this week, which means their conditioning has not been up to par. Additionally, endurance is one of the first things to suffer when the body is not fully functioning. There will be plenty of guys on the field playing at less than full strength. Even when healthy, the late-game deterioration of the defense has been a sore spot for the Badgers dating back to the debacle in Ann Arbor last season when they blew a 19-point halftime lead. Just last week, the defense allowed two fourth quarter touchdowns to allow a middling Northern Illinois team back into the game.
Part of the reason for the fourth quarter meltdowns is the lack of defensive depth, particularly along the line. Can you name more than a couple of backups to Matt Shaughnessy, Jason Chapman, Mike Newkirk and O'Brien Schofield from last season? Once again, it appeared as though Schofield and J.J. Watt took nearly every snap on Saturday. The indefinite suspensions of Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter from the team suddenly leave the secondary short-handed as well. There are not a whole lot of viable options when it comes time to give the starters a rest. And because of the flu issue, those starters may need a few more breathers than usual on Gameday.
With that, here are your Badger Bits for Friday: