The way things have gone, Wisconsin might just want Big Ten season to start already.
Simply put, nearly everybody outside of Michigan State has embrassed itself to some varying extent, and as our very own Louis Bien said earlier today, the Badgers could soon need a respite from playing all these plucky upstarts. Utah State is another one of those, and after the Aggies' 27-20 upset of the Utah Utes last week, Wisconsin could be entering another storm of 'Oh S***, Not Again' Saturday night in Camp Randall.
To get our weekly enemy insight, I figured it'd be interesting to check in on the Utes' side and see how they're recuperating from last Saturday's misery. Just like us, they've been befuddled by, among other things, weak offensive play and overall underachievement through the first two games. SB Nation also has yet to find a trusty Utah State blog, so without further ado, I present this week's Thoughts From The Other Side with Block U. It went pretty well, especially considering I remembered where the game was being played, unlike last week. Hey, I'm still reaching midseason form, too.
1. B5Q: First off, an explanation. Especially considering the misery Madison is feeling with its own team, the last thing we'd want to do is intentionally make Block U relive its own nightmare weekend. But given the lack of a Utah State blog on SB Nation, would you mind briefly (and as painfully as possible) recapping what happened against the Aggies? Was the loss more about them or some of Utah's own misgivings? You mentioned the Utes' offensive line issues (suddenly familiar here in Madison) in a previous email?
BU: It was the perfect storm. The first thing you've got to realize is how bad Utah State has been for much of the past thirty years. There was a brief moment in the mid-90s, under John L. Smith, when they were competitive, but really, for my entire life, they were pretty much an automatic victory for Utah. Then along came Gary Andersen, Utah's defensive coordinator from 2005-2008. He's totally changed the attitude of the faithful in Logan and has finally built a respectable program, one that is very capable of beating good teams (just last season, they all but had a win over Auburn wrapped up before collapsing in the end). So, this was always going to be a concerning game for Utah fans, especially since the Utes hadn't played the Aggies since 2009 - Andersen's first season. It was up in Logan, on a Friday night, and the entire team and fan base was buzzing about the possibility of finally getting a win over Utah (something they hadn't done since 1997). I think the Utes actually overlooked the Aggies ... didn't respect them like they should have and got kicked in the mouth early. The game started to unravel when a Utah punt early in the first half was blocked and returned for a touchdown. After that, things fell apart rather quickly. Jordan Wynn, Utah's non-durable quarterback, went down in a career-ending injury, and though the offense found enough to eventually tie the game behind his backup, Jon Hays, it still failed to gain much traction because, as you already hinted, the offensive line was just abysmal. In fact, Wynn's injury is a direct result of the poor blocking by the line ... as he took hit after hit early in the game.
The line's poor play also made it difficult running on the Aggies and without a ground game, the Utes were forced to rely on Hays, who, while okay at times, as he started most of last season after Wynn faced another season-ending injury three and a half games into the year, had trouble moving the chains. In the end, Utah, as badly as they played, as awful as they looked, still managed to get the game into overtime, but, after giving up a touchdown in OT, an offensive pass interference call negated a Utes' touchdown and a no-call on fourth down sealed the win for USU. Cue the celebration in Logan and the agony in Salt Lake City.
So, like I said, a perfect storm. That isn't to take anything away from Utah State, who played a good game, and, more importantly, coached a good game, but it certainly felt the Utes could have won this one and maybe should have.
2. B5Q: Wisconsin has no doubt been put on guard by its horrifying underachievement through two games, but even the local media is hyping Utah State as "upstart" and "a program on the rise" in its early previews for this coming weekend. Having seen them play yourself and with the familiarity you have with the Aggies from your school's rivalry, is that accurate?
BU: Yes. Utah State has a good foundation, some very good coaches, and is very capable of going into Madison and winning. As I said, they nearly knocked off Auburn in the season opener last year and almost did the same against Oklahoma in 2010 - this team is very capable of eventually putting it together and pulling an upset. While I doubt USU will ever be a perennial winner, they'll do just enough to turn some heads. Saturday could be one of those days.
3. B5Q: Who are the Utah State players to watch out for on offense? And briefly, what kind of system do the Aggies run?
BU: Chuckie Keeton, their quarterback. Kid is a baller and mobile and will just beat the hell out of you if you don't defend right. Utah has a great defense, and even they were killed on a few plays because of his ability to scramble.
4. B5Q: And on defense?
BU: Jordan Neilson had a good game against Utah. He's a defensive lineman and could cause some trouble if your line breaks down.
5. B5Q: As much as you know about the Badgers -- and we'll forgive you if you haven't seen a whole bunch of them through these first two terrible outings -- where can the Aggies give them trouble?
BU: Their defensive line. I think that right there has to be a concern if, like Utah, you're going through offensive line struggles. I don't think their offense is as lights out as it was last year, but their defense more than makes up for it.
6. B5Q: Lastly, this is a question we usually at the tail end of our Q&As -- should Wisconsin fans expect noticeable continent of Utah State fans? Saturday's game has a 7:00 p.m. CT kickoff time, presenting Badgers fans the always welcome notion of a night game at Camp Randall.
BU: I really can't tell you. I think there will be a solid amount because, from what I gather, the confidence is high among Aggie faithful that they'll win and, coming off a huge win last Friday, they'll be pumped for this one. But you've also got to remember that Utah State is the third largest football program in the state and located in a pretty small town, so, their fan base, while committed and great, is not nearly as large as a great deal of other programs.