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Fifth Quarter Consensus: Badgers win 12th consecutive opener

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The Consensus

Adam Hoge: Wisconsin 24, Northern Illinois 17

Eric Levine: Wisconsin 42, Northern Illinois 24

Jake Harris: Wisconsin 31, Northern Illinois 17

Ben Worgull (Scout.com): Wisconsin 42, Northern Illinois 20

"Wild Card" Pick (Mike Breese, RedandBlackAttack.com): Wisconsin 21, Northern Illinois 18

The Reasoning

Wisconsin is 10-1 all-time against the Huskies and has won its last 11 opening games.  Despite going only 8-4 against the MAC last season, the Big Ten teams have traditionally dominated these match-ups.  NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish has a penchant for throwing too many costly interceptions and one or two timely turnovers are all the Badgers need to put this one away.  Wisconsin is coming off a bitterly disappointing 7-6 season and has a great chance to get off to a fast start with a home game at night.  The Huskies improved substantially under Jerry Kill in his first year on the job in 2008, but were still a middle-of-the-pack MAC squad.  They may make strides this season but the process won't begin at Camp Randall.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Scott Tolzien, Zach Brown & Garrett Graham vs. Chandler Harnish, Me'co Brown & Willie Clark

            Edge: Wisconsin

Defense: O'Brien Schofield, Jaevery McFadden & Aaron Henry vs. Brandon Bice, Alex Kube & David Bryant

            Edge: Wisconsin

Special Teams: Philip Welch, Brad Nortman & David Gilreath vs. Mike Salerno, Josh Wilber & Tommy Davis

            Edge: Wisconsin

Coaching: Bret Bielema vs. Jerry Kill

            Edge: Northern Illinois

Intangibles:

            Edge: Wisconsin

5th Quarter's Take 5 with RedandBlackAttack

Bucky's 5th Quarter exchanged five questions with RedandBlackAttack.

1)      Jerry Kill emphasized the importance of finding a reliable running back going in to camp. Who’s the guy and how good will he be?

The guy is Me'co Brown.  He's quietly had one of the best camps out of anybody and is ready to run.  He's a bit of a scat back in the Reggie Bush mold (but smaller) and was our leading rusher last year as only a true freshman.  He's the home-run hitter that's flying way under the radar right now.  Last year he kinda got worn out returning punts & kicks, but just got relegated to emergency backup at those positions a la Devin Hester.

2)      How much better is Chandler Harnish this season and will he be able to carve up the Badger defense on Saturday night?

All of Huskie Nation is crossing their fingers on this one.  He's repeatedly said recently that last year he didn't know what the hell he was doing and the offense is just that much further along than in Kill's first year.  Personally, I think we should be OK.  This is the first time that NIU has had a consensus returning starter at QB since 2004 when we went 9-3 with a bowl victory.  He loves season openers though.  In his first game against Minnesota he went 17 of 29 for 326 yds and 2 TDs.

3)      At the start of training camp, Coach Kill said he wasn’t very excited to start the season at a place like Camp Randall Stadium. Are you worried about that comment?

No.  Coach Kill has a PhD in Coach-Speak.  Wisconsin has a crazy-good record in home openers.  No team wants to go in to Madison and face that.  Here's what he said today:

"You can go though practice and you can simulate the game all you want through practice but it's not like going to Wisconsin in front of 70,000 people that have been partying all day and you go to play them at seven o'clock at night."

4)      The offensive line appears to be a strength for NIU. Does it have the advantage over Wisconsin’s front seven?

Good question.  Same thing as the Chandler Harnish question.  Of course we hope to be good on the O-Line, but we have yet to see.  They weren't stellar throughout camp, but of course that could possibly be attributed to the excellent defense that we have to play against every day.  The left side of our line has been starting forever, so I'm not concerned about protecting the QB's blindside.  On the right side, we have two new starters and its a wait and see situation.  It will be hard to move the ball against Wisconsin nevertheless, because they should be the most physical team that we face all year.

5)      What’s the scouting report for the NIU defense? Will it have any answer for the Badgers’ rushing attack and who will look to rattle the cages of UW QBs Scott Tolzien and Curt Phillips, both who have yet to start a college football game?

 The outside edges of the Huskie D will be very, very good, even if they don't have Larry English anymore.  Brandon Bice is a former starter on the left side that still got 6.5 sacks last year as a backup.  On the other end is former Marine Jake Coffman that has also seen a ton of playing time these past two years.  In the middle you have 6'0" 285 earth-shaker DJ Pirkle and underrated newbie Brian Lawson.  We lost a couple guys for the season in fall camp, but we should be pretty solid yet scrappy at DT.

At linebacker, converted SS Alex Kube is a scary dude at SLB.  He's fast and will knock the crap out of you.  On the other side are two speedy productive seniors in Cory Hanson & John Tranchitella.  In the middle you have Pat Schiller who is another guy that haunts dreams, is also a new starter but caused havoc as a backup last year.

The corners Patrick George & Kiaree Daniels are a little ripe, but they've both seen a ton of time and are extremely talented individuals.  At free safety, David Bryant is the best player on the defense and is lauded by Kill as our best NFL prospect.  At SS you have Tracy Wilson who played so well down the stretch last year that he beat out Mike Sobol who started almost every game.

I like the pass rush that we will generate and expect some safety or linebacker blitzing here and there.  Stopping any of the running backs behind that huge offensive line could be an issue, but I think that we have the starting personnel to do it.  The only thing that concerns me right now is depth.