Badger Bits: Can Wisconsin's defense slow down the Ducks?

A lot of the press and chatter surrounding the Rose Bowl involves the perceived edge the Ducks have in the Rose Bowl. As I've said in previous posts, Oregon deserves this edge because of their big-game experience and unequaled offensive speed. The Badgers' defense hasn't shown the ability to shut down high powered offenses this season, so why should we expect it to do it against arguably the best offense it has faced all year. Vegas agrees; the Badgers are six-point underdogs. Only the Cotton Bowl has a bigger spread amongst the BCS bowls.

That said, the Badgers have had their share of defensive successes this season. Even if the Badgers defense merely slows down the Ducks' attack, it can give its offense a chance to win the game against Oregon's equally-unheralded defense. Here's how:

1) Win the turnover battle

Forcing turnovers on defense and avoiding them on offense will win you most any game, but I think it will be the most important stat to keep an eye on Monday. The Badgers lead the nation with only eight turnovers on the year. Oregon has 18. The Ducks have forced 27 and the Badgers 24. In a game that many are describing as a potential shootout, turning the opponent over may be the only way to stop the opposing offense and build more than a one-score lead.

2) Avoid giving up big plays

Tom Mulhern did a nice job laying this out for Madison.com. In its losses and in the Big Ten championship, Wisconsin was too often unable to prevent the opposing offense from generating explosive and semi-explosive plays. From the article:

One of the issues against Michigan State [in the Big Ten Championship] was allowing too many plays of 10-plus yards. Michigan State had two runs of 20-plus yards (26 and 24) and three pass plays (30 yards for a TD, 28 and 44 for a TD).

Almost as crippling were five more runs and a staggering 12 pass plays of 10 to 19 yards

Oregon's offense thrives on making such plays, so limiting them will be paramount for Wisconsin's defense.

3) Avoid miscommunications

This point goes hand-in-hand with the last one, but the Wisconsin defense can ill-afford to have the same kind of miscommunication issues that have plagued it this season. The Badgers will likely give up some big plays because of physical mistakes, but if they give them up due to mental mistakes, the game could get ugly in a hurry. Wisconsin's communication skills will be tested against Oregon's up-tempo attack; the Ducks spend only a few seconds between plays, so making sure everyone is on the same page will be a challenge. Mulhern noted in the linked story above that the Badgers will be using color cards to help get plays onto the field.

Links

Mulhern and The Oregonian beat writer Aaron Fentress collaborated on a piece comparing the two teams' size and speed. They both gave the Ducks the edge.

If you're looking to brush up on your Rose Bowl knowledge, here's a list of the top games in the Bowl's history.

I thought we'd have a pretty good idea about who Wisconsin's next offensive coordinator would be by now. I was wrong.

Adam mentioned Darrell Bevell as a possible candidate for the job. Here's a Journal Sentinal story on Bevell's memory of the 1994 Rose Bowl.

Brian Bennett put together a nice piece on Wisconsin's rare experience of playing in two consecutive Rose Bowls, complete with plenty of great quotes from players.

Here's a story from the Washington Post on what the teams had to say during their trips to Disneyland this week.

To the surprise of no one, the Ducks' Rose Bowl uniforms are awesome.

Lost in promotion of two new co-defensive coordinators last year was the hiring of new linebackers coach Dave Huxtable. (via Dave Heller)

More good news on Peter Konz's Rose Bowl availability.

De'Anthony Thomas is just one of Oregon's many explosive offensive weapons Wisconsin's defense will have to deal with.

Wisconsin's players seem to like the short, crisp and conditioning-heavy practices the team is using to prepare for Oregon's speed.

Here's a recap of the Badger basketball teams' very impressive blowout of Nebraska in Lincoln last night.

Wrapping up, check out Oregon running back LaMichael James freaking out on Space Mountain. (via The Big Lead)

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