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Wisconsin prepares for Stefon Diggs, Maryland offense

Fresh off their bye, the Badgers will have to face an offense boasting an NFL-caliber wide receiver in Stefon Diggs and some playmakers at all skill positions.

Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers have faced multiple types of offense this season. From pro-style mirrors of their own offense in South Florida and LSU to varying looks of spread variations in Bowling Green, Northwestern and Illinois, it seems the Badgers have seen a full spectrum of offenses early in the season.

Though they've seen their fair share of looks and schemes, the Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) have maintained a solid defensive front in the first six games of the season, ranking in the top 25 in four major defensive categories -- total defense (7th, 286 yards per game), passing defense (8th, 169.2 yards), scoring defense (10th, 17.7 points) and rushing defense (22nd, 116.8 yards).

Facing the Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-1) on Saturday afternoon won't be much different from previous opponents in terms of seeing another spread offense and their uptempo tendencies, but as junior safety Michael Caputo noted Monday, the key difference lies in the efficiency of Maryland's players in executing plays and for the Badgers to account for potent threats at multiple positions.

"I don't think there's anything we haven't seen, other than their skill level," said Caputo, who leads the team in tackles with 45.

"They have a lot of guys who can do a lot of great things -- quarterback, running backs, wide receivers. They got guys who can do a lot of stuff, and that's something we really haven't seen from, I guess, all those three aspects. Either it's a good QB or a good running back, but all three spots they got down pretty solid."

The Terrapins rank only 49th in passing offense at 251.7 yards per game, but they have a big-play wide receiver in Stefon Diggs. Senior quarterback C.J. Brown has found the 6'0, 190-pound junior 45 times this season for 580 yards and four touchdowns. Diggs caught nine passes for 130 yards and a 53-yard touchdown reception last Saturday in a 38-31 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Brown is also a bit of a rushing threat, as he leads Maryland with 362 yards -- though he's only completed 56.8 percent of his passes and has almost as many interceptions (six) as he does touchdowns (seven) this year.

Add in running backs Brandon Ross, who's averaged almost 5 yards per carry, and the Badgers have a lot of factors to consider.

"Again, they have really good skill positions," senior defensive end Konrad Zagzebski said.

"They can move up front. The quarterback [Brown] is elusive, he breaks tackles, make big plays. It definitely will be a challenge for us this week, so we're excited for the opportunity."

Head coach Gary Andersen noted in his Monday press conference that Maryland, though a spread offense, has many formations Wisconsin will have to defend against. The Terps also add a little of bit of pace to their scheme to get defenses off-kilter.

"Many of their plays are built and designed to kind of cut a defense in half, if you will, by things that can go on on both sides of the football, whether that be a screen play or a player, puller going opposite of where the ball's really going," Andersen said.

"So there's a lot to it. It will be important to tackle in space, I would say. They force you to tackle the quarterback, the running backs, whoever it may be, in space."

The Badgers respect the Terps' personnel on the offensive side of the ball. Saturday's showdown, which is the first meeting between the two universities on a football field, should provide a test for its defense.

"They're a great opponent," Zagzebski said. "They're a great challenge, and we're just going to try to come ready to play and give them our best, and I know they're going to do the same thing."