If you've been worried about the Outback Bowl, it's understandable. The last time real live actual football was played, Rhett Miller's lament about how you ain't supposed to die on a Saturday Night took on a literal meeting. And then to get Auburn, with a coach who literally wrote the book on the no-huddle offense, and an offense that was explosive enough to put up 44 points on a defense like Alabama's?
You can see how there would be a sense of doom.
But that said, there's still a reason to get up for the Outback Bowl on New Years Day. And it's not just that we're entering no one believes in us territory either. I mean, quarterback Nick Marshall is who he is. He'll throw 20 times a game, hit 60 percent of his passes, and hit some big completions along the way (14 yards per completion), and he's absolutely the sort of mobile quarterback who could give the Badgers all sorts of problems with his legs. (780 yards rushing on the year with 11 touchdowns).
Cameron Artis-Payne isn't as transcendent of a running back as Tre Mason was, but something's going to need to go horribly wrong for Payne to avoid getting to 1500 yards on the season. So basically, he's not a slouch. And Auburn has an offensive line led by Reese Dismukes, who got the Rimington award. Wisconsin's defense is going to need a big performance, because you have an offensive line that's been consistently great, and because the Badgers have struggled getting to quarterbacks to end the year? There's a chance for a big passing game.
And despite Duke Williams not being available? Sammie Coates and Quan Bray are both really good receivers. Coates is the sort that can get vertical and give Badger fans bad Devin Smith memories. Bray's also a weapon who can score any time the ball's in his hands. You're going to be thrilled to know that he has returned two punts for scores this year. I also wouldn't be surprised if Ricardo Louis steps up and makes some plays too.
It's a high-powered offense, but they can allow some penetration. They've allowed 5.5 tackles for loss. There's going to have to be some sure tackling from the Michael Caputo and the linebackers. Because this offense is rather high-powered. But if you want a piece to hope on? The last time Duke Williams didn't give it a go, Auburn only got to 7 points. It's small but it's something.
For Wisconsin's offense? Auburn's front four is worse than it's back seven. They've allowed over 4 yards a rush, and DaVonte Lambert (team leading 3.5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss), isn't going to give it a go.So that means it's going to be on the linebackers to see just how much Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement get to answer what Auburn's offense does. And they are talented. Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost have combined for 157 tackles and 19 tackles for loss.
As for the Badger passing game? Suffice it to say that it's the Badgers passing game against a bunch of strong dudes named Jon. Jonathan Jones is the best ballhawk, the corner leads the team with 6 interceptions and 11 pass break-ups. Jonathon Mincy is a blitzing weapon Will Muschamp's gonna be disappointed he doesn't get to use next year. (A corner with 5.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks plus 8 PBU). Jonathan Ford is their Michael Caputo, leading the defense with 84 tackles. Short story longer, if the Badgers have to pass consistently, odds are we're already dead.
If you're thinking Auburn has the advantage here, that's because they're justly a shade under a touchdown favorites. That said? The Badgers have two great backs at peak health and they have a defensive line that can be blocked consistently. You don't know how well they hold at the second level. But just as there's a way this can turn into some kind of 45-17 thank God that's done.
The Badgers look like they can control the clock running the ball. They can make the game interesting. Keep it close, and you just might end well against an SEC opponent. But, the quality of Auburn's offense is going to demand a quality response. The Badgers won't get the upset without one