I'm not a believer in reading too much into early season non-conference games. Sure, they serve as our only indicator of which teams will perform like a well-oiled machine and which will limp their way through the season, but it takes time to iron out the wrinkles.
Time and time again we've talked about how Danny O'Brien will fit offensively, the need for improvement out of the wideouts and the defensive line, as well as the offensive line's transition with just two returning starters. But what about the six new coaching assistants on Bret Bielema's staff? They may need these non-conference games more than any position player, so they can eventually gel into a cohesive unit of their own. Look no further than the Badgers' opening day scare against Northern Iowa for proof.
Wisconsin's offense certainly wasn't explosive in the first half, but it managed to score on three of four drives. The tide changed in the second half though. Northern Iowa's defense adjusted well, putting eight to nine men in the box to impede the Badgers' running attack. It didn't matter how massive UW's linemen were because when an offensive line is outmatched by those numbers, it's nearly impossible to find success running the football.
The answer? Open up the passing game more for quarterback Danny O'Brien. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada said after the game he wanted to limit O'Brien in his debut and not force him to win the game with his arm. The problem arose when Northern Iowa found an answer to stopping Montee Ball and James White. I'd like to see Canada make more in-game adjustments in this case. He made a great play call when a play-action pass led to a 53-yard Jared Abbrederis touchdown, but he should've done more of the same in the second half. Northern Iowa would not allow Wisconsin to run the football, so O'Brien needed more opportunities to make them pay for loading the box.
What do you think? Should Canada have used more play action is the second half to throw off Northern Iowa's defense? Let us know in the comments below.
Who would've thought the Badgers' special teams would receive the best grade for the Northern Iowa game? Jeff Potrykus gives us his first team grades from the season opener.
It played well throughout the majority of the game, but the defense still gave up too many big plays down the stretch.
Bielema decided to award no MVP's this week to his players, sending the message he expects much more from them.
An early B1G preview of Week 2 that includes three road games with the Pac 12.
Tom Dienhart envisions the Badgers in the Capital One Bowl after their first game. See his other B1G bowl predictions.
Read Jeff Potrykus' blog to read about lineman Dallas Lewallen's progress as he returns from injury.
Bielema and his coaching staff decided not to send team video to Oregon State.