UMass vs. Wisconsin preview: Badgers have chance to dominate

Mike Wegzyn was on the run a lot last season. It should continue Saturday. - Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

If this game was played on paper, the Badgers would really be the scissors. That is, if you forget about last year's season-opener vs. Northern Iowa.

The Badgers should cruise. And now, to hit post.

...

You want more I suppose? Well, one of the two major concerns on offense should not show itself this week. UMass was in the bottom 10 in both rushing yards allowed per game and per attempt last season, and ended up only generating 12 sacks on the year. That's good for a tie for 118th. Pressure's going to come at some point this season. It should not be Saturday

Statistically, the Minutemen were a defense that could be dealt with. On a per-play basis? UMass was 113th in the nation in total defense. The only reason they were 104th overall was because they tried slowing games down (39th in fewest plays on defense.)

UMass also lost important pieces to their defense along all three fronts. The 2012 leader in sacks and tackles (Perry McIntyre) and their leader in interceptions (Darren Thellen) have graduated. The second-place finisher in sacks and tackles for loss is playing Saturdays for Towson (Ryan Dellaire). Linebacker Kassan Messiah is an athlete and made a lot of plays as a raw freshman, but if any help's coming it hasn't shown itself yet. I expect him to make a heroic amount of tackles, but he's going to have ample opportunity.

For the Badgers, there's ample opportunity for playing time. Melvin Gordon and James White might not have the best days. But if one of the second-string receivers develops a trust with a quarterback, Jordan Frederick could be usurped. Tanner McEvoy could have all sorts of adventures playing all sorts of positions. They should get their points easily.

On offense? UMass was the arguably the worst nationally. The Minutemen were 124th in yards per play, yards per game and quarterback rating; they were 120th in rushing yards per attempt; 118th in rushing touchdowns and 117th in interceptions thrown. It was a young team, and as Jake discussed with MassLive.com's Daniel Malone, whoever played quarterback pretty much had to live in fear for grievous bodily harm.

But as Jake also reported, the offensive line is still in a patchwork state. When you add it to the considerations of their two best players in Jordan Broadnax and Rob Branchflower being injured and likely out for the game, the irrational exuberance for the Aranada-led defense seems likely to be off the charts after this one.

It may be rational. But there will be exuberance. All the exuberance.

So yeah, like I said, this aims to be a long day for the Minutemen. And then you ask yourself, weren't we in a relatively similar situation last year? A game that was supposed to be a gimme. A game that was supposed to mark the Badgers as a force to be reckoned with. They led 26-7. Then it fell apart. Two deep touchdowns, and they had a drive stall inside Badgers territory.

That team was Northern Iowa. They had to win their last three just to get to 5-6. They punched the Badgers in the mouth, But here's the thing. You look at a guy like Jeff Sagarin, the rare college football expert who puts FCS rankings into their power rankings?

In 2012, the Badgers went into the year ranked 11th according to Sagarin. Northern Iowa had high expectations and began 89th. In 2013, the Badgers start 17th. UMass? 164th, which according to Jeff Sagarin is good for third place. In the Ivy League.

I'm not so bold as to say that they can't get hyped and come out and set a tone that breaks down the Camp Randall mystique and they're going to jack the Badgers in the jaw. But it's going to take a gear the Minutemen haven't shown in recent years. It's not that quarter Mike Wegzyn can't pull his best impression of Kyle Havens in the big house.

It's just I don't think the Badgers are going to let him.

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