Badger Bits: Can Wisconsin's defense run with Oregon?

After a less than dominating performance by the Wisconsin defense in the Big Ten Championship game, not many people think that the Badgers will be able to stop Oregon's potent offensive attack in the upcoming Rose Bowl. Sporting News's Matt Hayes says "the Badgers don't have enough on defense to handle the Ducks' speed," and his colleague Steve Greenberg says "the Ducks' speed and pace will overtax the depth of a UW defense that was dominated by Michigan State in the Big Ten title game." Both writers picked the Badgers to give up around 40 points and lose by 10 or so. Similarly, the sportsbooks in Las Vegas are currently projecting a 39-33 Ducks victory in the game, not really displaying much faith in the Wisconsin defense.

The Oregon Ducks are averaging 46.2 points per game this season, a total bolstered by the crazed speed at which they run their offense. Their lowest point output of the season was against LSU with 27 (the most points LSU gave up in a game this season, ironically). They had 34 points in a win over Washington and 35 in a loss to USC. But the Ducks struggled offensively in BCS bowl games in the past two seasons, only averaging 18 points a game in two losses.

The Badgers defense has had its ups and downs this season. It looked brilliant in home victories against Penn State and Nebraska, but also looked deeply flawed away from Camp Randall against the Buckeyes and twice against the Spartans. With all due respect to Kirk Cousins and Braxton Miller, the Darron Thomas-led Ducks will be the toughest offense the Badgers face this season.

Stopping the Ducks won't be impossible, but the Badgers defense will need to turn in one of its best performances of the season. At times, the defensive pressure on the quarterback has been lacking, and a standout game from Brendan Kelly or Louis Nzegwu would be a welcome sight (JJ Watt suiting up in white would be nice too, but I think he'll be busy with the NFL Playoffs). Also, the Badgers will need to avoid missing tackles and stop taking poor angles to ball-carriers. Too many times in Indianapolis, a Spartan receiver made a big play out of a short reception because the Badgers failed to tackle him properly.

I simply don't buy that Wisconsin's defense is too slow to compete with Oregon. You can't boil an offensive-defensive matchup down to only speed, and even if you want to, Wisconsin's defense is fast enough. No one is asking the defense to shut out the Ducks, it just needs to get a few stops and/or a couple of turnovers. A month to prepare for the Ducks' unique offense is in Wisconsin's favor. The Badger offense's ability to slow a game down with long drives will help. If the defense plays up to its full potential, I could certainly see them holding Oregon to 30 points or so. From there, it's all up to Russell Wilson and Montee Ball to bring home the roses.

More Links:

Extremely cool recap of the 1953 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin vs. USC. Makes you feel like you were there in Madison back in 1952 (anyone who actually was, feel free to dispute that assertion).

SB Nation Motorsports talked to Ben Brust about his love for NASCAR. Clearly, watching auto racing hasn't taken away from the time Brust has spent in the gym hoisting three-pointers, though.

Badger basketball heads over to Milwaukee to take on UW-Milwaukee tonight. These road games against the Wisconsin little bros are sometimes frightening (see 2009 Wisconsin at Green Bay). ESPN is trying to tell me that tonight's game will be on ESPN3, but I think that's wrong. If so, I highly recommend making it a Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas radio feed night.

Will the Mountain West get a BCS bid? They'll ask for one, but it doesn't help their cause that Boise State and TCU are on the way out.

If you didn't see the Chicago Tribune story on Russell Wilson from a couple of days ago, you should really check it out. Fun to see how Wilson described from his perspective two of the biggest plays of the B1G Championship.

Wisconsin's favorite walk-on is sidelined again. Jimmy Leonhard is out for the year with a torn patellar tendon.

Adidas's apparel deal with Wisconsin could be in jeopardy over unpaid severance to workers at a factory that was closed. I guess Under Armour could be an alternative, but what happens when they get in trouble for the same thing? Badgers will have to play in the flesh, in that case.

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