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Fifth Quarter Consensus: Badgers open Andersen era with win over Minutemen

What do our writers think will happen in Saturday's Wisconsin season-opener against UMass?

James White takes over for Montee Ball as the Badgers open against UMass Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
James White takes over for Montee Ball as the Badgers open against UMass Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Predictions:

Mike Fiammetta: Wisconsin 45, Massachusetts 7

Andrew Rosin: Wisconsin 38, Massachusetts 0

Andy Johnson: Wisconsin 47, Massachusetts 10

Jake Harris: Wisconsin 51, Massachusetts 3

Phil Mitten: Wisconsin 48, Massachusetts 7

Louis Bien: Wisconsin 60, Massachusetts 17

Jake Kocorowski: Wisconsin 42, Massachusetts 17

The Reasoning:

One of the most anticipated season openers in the history of Wisconsin Football has nothing to do with the opponent. The Minutemen of Massachusetts do not figure to put up much of a fight against the Badgers.

The debut of new head coach Gary Andersen, however, has given fans plenty to wonder about. What will defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense look like in action? Will offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig open the playbook or keep things vanilla against an overmatched opponent? Heck, who could be blamed for being just a bit curious about what Andersen's gameday attire will look like?

UMass is entering just its second season as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). Head coach Charley Molnar led the team to a 1-11 record in 2012 and things don't figure to get any easier for the Minutemen this season.

Sophomore Mike Wegzyn returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,825 yards and completing 52.6 percent of his passes a year ago. Wegzyn struggled to a 6-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The team will look to replace running back Michael Cox, who was drafted in the 7th round by the New York Giants. The team's second-leading rusher in 2012 was Wegzyn.

Senior tight end Rob Blanchflower, who was the team's second-leading receiver last season, will miss Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury. That is a big loss for UMass, which must also find a replacement for departed wideout Deion Walker.

Look for the Badgers, led by nose tackle Beau Allen and a talented group of linebackers including Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, Brendan Kelly and Derek Landisch, to make life miserable for Wegzyn with their new aggressive scheme.

Joel Stave is set to make his seventh career start at quarterback for Wisconsin after a lengthy battle with sixth-year senior Curt Phillips in fall camp. It would be surprising if Stave were the only quarterback to play Saturday, as the game should be well in hand by the end of the third quarter. Expect Phillips to see some action as well.

Regardless of the well-documented quarterback decisions, the Badgers should keep it on the ground against a woefully inexperienced Massachusetts defense. James White is set to take over as the starter at running back with the talented Melvin Gordon behind him.

Kyle French will handle placekicking duties to start the year. He will be under some well-deserved scrutiny after a mediocre 2012 campaign. While a kick won't decide the outcome of this game, it is something to keep an eye on for the future.

Most importantly, football is back at Camp Randall Stadium and that alone should mean a lot of smiling faces around Madison this weekend.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Wisconsin

Defense: Wisconsin

Special Teams: Wisconsin

Coaching: Wisconsin

Intangibles: Wisconsin