Wisconsin opponent watch: Arizona State week

Christian Petersen

A look at where Wisconsin has been, the road ahead and why you should be afraid of Arizona State

Hey! Here's a new recurring feature. Funny enough, we didn't have one of these yet, so here I am writing this thing for you. Enjoy!

Where we're going

@ Arizona State (1-0, 0-0), Sept. 14

Last Week: Arizona State 55, Sacramento State 0

What happened: You know how we've been saying nice things about Wisconsin the last two weeks, and then saying those nice things even louder whenever anyone tries to tell us that Wisconsin hasn't actually played anybody? Well ditto Arizona State fans, except they come off as slightly less delusional since they've been doing it half as long.

Sacramento State may have had a slightly stronger pulse than UMass or Tennessee Tech. I mean, they were 6-5 in FCS last year. They also lost to San Jose State 24-0 before playing ASU, so I don't know. Mostly, they're bad. Really bad. And the Sun Devils racked up 523 total yards of offense in the win as a result.

Taylor Kelly paced the way, going 23-for-31 passing for 300 yards and five touchdowns. The running game was unimpressive. Marion Grice is supposedly a star, but 59 yards on 14 carries against Sacramento State is decidedly meh. The defense started off shaky, giving up a long drive to open the game, but dominated thereafter.

Why you should be afraid: Arizona State looked really good, and there isn't any more to say lest we shatter our own tidy glass house. Kelly was on point, and he should be licking his chops at Wisconsin's untested secondary. Cower if the Sun Devils successfully pass to set up the run and Grice gets going. Taking on up-tempo offenses in scorching heat is no fun, I don't think.

Why you shouldn't: Arizona State had massive trouble stopping the run last season, and White-Gordon-Clement are really, really good. Cackle with knowing glee if Wisconsin successfully runs to set up the play-action pass and Stave gets going.

Hubris: Wisconsin's secondary has by no means been the weakness many feared heading into the season. Sojourn Shelton, in fact, has been downright droolworthy. More importantly, Wisconsin's running game should dominate the clock and mitigate the effects of the Sun Devils' quick pace. Dave Aranda unveils all that nutty shit we've been hearing about and Wisconsin scores its first marquee win of the season.

Purdue (1-1, 0-0), Sept. 21

This week: Notre Dame

Last week: Purdue 20, Indiana State 14

What happened: Progress sort of? After being thoroughly shellacked by Cincinnati, Purdue bounced back and showed the mighty Sycamores what-for. Of course, they needed a kickoff return for a touchdown to do it. And the coaching staff made some boneheaded management decisions before halftime. And the offense line was thoroughly dominated by an FCS team. And ... oh god there is going to be so much blood in Louis Nix's wake this week.

The horror.

Why you should be afraid: Purdue is sandwiched between Wisconsin's two marquee games of the first half of the season, so complacency is a problem maybe.

Why you shouldn't: Remember that time Wisconsin was trying to make the Rose Bowl, and Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible so we pretended that Purdue was a super big game and then felt kind of silly about the whole thing after? That was weird, man.

Hubris: Us: good. Them: bad.

@ Ohio State (2-0, 0-0), Sept. 28

This week: @ Cal

Last week: Ohio State 42, San Diego State 7

What happened: Ohio State finally looked like the big, bad team it was supposed to be coming into the season. Braxton Miller left the game with an MCL sprain, and Kenny Guiton stepped and played obnoxiously well. Miller is probably fine going forward, but if he goes down against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will be plenty formidable with Guiton at the helm. Otherwise, Ohio State looked Ohio State-y.

Why you should be afraid: Top-five team, division/conference favorite, Urban Meyer wins a lot, etc. It may be the acme of all things unholy, but Ohio State still plays football pretty well.

Why you shouldn't: Really, the Buckeyes haven't shown anything that will make you shiver. Ditto last season. They may open up more against Cal after two straight weeks of dropping in the polls.

Hubris: It's the game of the century of the season, so of course Wisconsin is going to win. Then they'll promptly lose to Northwestern. Seriously people, we've seen this like a hundred times.

Northwestern (2-0, 0-0), Oct. 12

This week: Western Michigan

Last week: Northwestern 48, Syracuse 27

What happened:

Why you should be afraid: Northwestern really likes catching interceptions, and Joel Stave seems to have an affinity for throwing them. They may also have the best passing attack Wisconsin will face this season (with much respect to ASU) and Venric Mark will be closer to 100 percent. He is short and fast and probably part-hamster.

Northwestern is 35-point favorites over Western Michigan this week. Geez that's weird.

Why you shouldn't: Northwestern is still susceptible to being pushed around along its offensive and defensive fronts. Also, Wisconsin has a handy bye week to come down from what will be a taxing game against Ohio State, win or lose.

Hubris: No hubris. I'm still spooked by the early-century losses. Northwestern is 4-3 against Wisconsin since 2000 and this feels like a loss, going by my gut. So really, going by nothing. Next slide.

@ Illinois (2-0, 0-0), Oct. 19

This week: Washington

Last week: Illinois 45, Cincinnati 17

What happened: I don't know. Illinois goes out of its way to do the exact opposite of what it should do. The Illini are like a being fallen from a parallel universe scrambling to claw its way back through the rift from whence they came. They don't abide by the laws of our world. I mean, Nathan Scheelhaase looks good again! How does that happen? He threw four touchdown passes against the Bearcats, matching his season total from 2012.

Why you should be afraid: The offense has done a 180, thanks in large part to Scheelhaase. The running game is decent and Martize Barr looks like a wide receiver.

Why you shouldn't: Because Illinois will find a way to screw up. Unless it won't because it's decide to be bizarro Illinois this year. Also, the defense is still pretty bad.

Hubris: I'm punting. Let's see what happens against the Huskies.

@ Iowa (1-1, 0-0), Nov. 2

This week: @ Iowa State

Last week: Iowa 28, Missouri State 14

What happened: Iowa dispensed Missouri State in orderly fashion, outgaining the Spartans 489-197 and having the courtesy to commit untimely penalties and miss layup field goals near the end zone. Don't say Kirk Ferentz isn't a gentleman of the highest order. Missouri State is awful, but for one mighty weekend it stood up to the mighty Hawkeyes and didn't come out looking terrible after flopping around for a bit. Way to go Iowa!

Why you should be afraid: If Jake Rudock hypothetically becomes a good quarterback and Iowa's running backs hypothetically stay healthy and the defense remains tangibly decent, Iowa could maybe, possibly, evolve into a sorta decent team that tries hard and wins football games.

Why you shouldn't: In reality, Iowa is really quite bad.

Hubris: Playing at Iowa may make this game annoying. Most likely, you're going to be bored watching Wisconsin win by 10.

BYU (1-1, 0-0), Nov. 9

This week: Utah

Last week: BYU 40, Texas 21

What happened: The Cougars made the Longhorns fire their defensive coordinator, no big deal. Quarterback Taysom Hill isn't much for throwing the ball, but he raised hell on the ground, rushing for 259 of BYU's 550 rushing yards on the day. Running back Jamaal Williams added to Mack Brown's embarrassment with 182 yards on 30 carries. It was a massacre.

Why you should be afraid: LOOK WHAT THEY DID TO TEXAS

Why you shouldn't: Oh right, that Virginia game.

A bigger sample size is needed to determine the extent of Texas' suckitude before we begin to really worry about BYU. That said, the Cougars' win makes me infinitely more excited to see this game played in Camp Randall, with Gary Andersen's Utah connection and whatnot.

Hubris: BYU is pretty one dimensional and I trust Dave Aranda to produce a more sound defense than Manny Diaz. Wisconsin wins comfortably. Over/under set at 800 combined rushing yards.

Indiana (1-1, 0-0), Nov. 16

Next week: Bowling Green

Last week: Navy 41, Indiana 35

What happened: The Hoosiers got triple-optioned to the tune of 444 yards rushing. That's bad, but the triple option does have a tendency to make teams look thoroughly stupid if they're not prepared. Indiana's badness may not be as bad as we think if we give them a pass for throwing scissors to Navy's rock. Or they may be exactly as bad as we think. At least the offense was able to keep pace.

Why you should be afraid: Nate Sudfeld is a real quarterback, Ted Bolser is a real tight end and Kevin Wilson is a smart dude.

Why you shouldn't: 62-14, 59-7 and 83-20.

Hubris: See above.

@ Minnesota (2-0, 0-0), Nov. 23

Next week: Western Illinois

Last week: Minnesota 44, New Mexico State 21

What happened: The Gophers ran for 342 yards on the day, with 122 coming from Philip Nelson (!). Good thing he can run, because 8-for-15, 127 yards and an interception through the air sure isn't intimidating. It's very worrisome for that Gophers that they gave up 356 total yards in the matchup, but 2-0 is a good start.

Why you should be afraid: Nelson can run, apparently. Rivalry game. Minnesota has confidence now.

Why you shouldn't: The defense is ripe to be gashed. Plus, nine-straight.

Hubris: I don't think Wisconsin gets complacent when a 10th-straight win for a series record is on the line.

Penn State (2-0, 0-0), Nov. 30

Next week: UCF

Last week: Penn State 45, Eastern Michigan 7

What happened: Christian Hackenberg is much better than your average frosh quarterback. Standard caveat about patsy opponents apply, but Hackenberg has gone 45-for-64 passing for 589 yards through two games. That puts his completion percentage a tick over 70 percent at 9.2 yards per attempt. Three interceptions against aforementioned weak competition is a problem, but overall encouraging stuff. It helps that Allen Robinson is as good as he is. Against the Eagles, he had seven receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Why you should be afraid: Penn State has given every indication of being a sound football team on both sides of the ball. Sanctions won't let them be any better, but "sound" is plenty good enough to take out Wisconsin.

Why you shouldn't: Penn State didn't beat Syracuse by as much as Northwestern beat Syracuse, so they're not THAT good.

Hubris: By Nov. 30, injuries may have taken their toll on a roster lacking depth due to sanctions. Wisconsin could be playing for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, and even if not, there is no mercy to be had in Camp Randall after last year's game.

Where we've been

UMass (0-2, 0-0)

The Minutemen are scoreless no more! They fell gallantly to the Maine Black Bears last week, 24-14.

Tennessee Tech (1-1, 0-0)

Wisconsin was unkind to the Golden Eagles.

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