It's a third of the way through the season. Wisconsin fans are generally okay with their lot in life. And while the older among us are worrying about Northwestern -- because they are always spookier in Evanston -- it's still a good time to stop and consider the numbers.
You know, have some fun with proration, some fun with charts. If you're good, I'll give you some legitimate causes to be mad at Andy Ludwig's play calling.
Well start with 15. Why 15? That's the number of quarterback hurries the Badgers have this season. A part of that was feasting on some non power-conference schools, but the Badgers have indeed faced some good offensive lines along the way. And if you look at the way the defense has been playing compared to recent iterations, it's night and day. In 2011 and 2012, the Badgers managed 16 quarterback hurries. For the entire season.
Next on the agenda is 3. That's the number of sacks that Derek "Cool Plays" Landisch has garnered through four games. I suppose being on pace for nine sacks on the year doesn't sound that impressive, but since Erasmus James roamed opposing backfields, the Badgers have only had a player beat seven sacks once (The Immortal O'Brien Schofield got to 12 in 2009 ). The Badgers might not be at peak Dave Aranda yet, but they're definitely out of the stentorian days of Charlie Partridge.
26. Why 26? That's the number of tackles that Michael Caputo has. That leads the team. Normally, when this occurs with a safety, it's a bad sign for the defense. The fun of this fact is that the Badgers' defense is still eighth in terms of rushing yards and 12th in terms of rushing yards per play. Also, Marcus Trotter and Landisch have 25 and a very cool 20, respectively. It's just fun that there's a safety in the lead and this defense isn't hot garbage.
276. That's the reason Tanner McEvoy is considered in the same sort of breath as Joel Stave. He's fine, but the situation could be improved. That's the number of rushing yards McEvoy has through four games. It's a pace that would break Brooks Bollinger's UW quarterback record of 466 rushing yards by the Maryland game. He's still likely going to face competition for his job in the offseason, but a record is a record.
But all is not peachy keen on the horizon. There are troubles in Badger land. There are aspects that need improving. There are aspects that you should keep vigilant for. Because if the Badgers lose, these might be why.
7.4. That's the yards per attempt Wisconsin allowed through the air. When the Badgers get a pass completed against them, it's averaging 15.5 yards. That's not to say that the defense isn't a total paper tiger when it comes to the pass; they are allowing a completion rate of 47.9 percent. It's just that when you consider the Badgers as a top-20 pass defense (and they sit 19th in yards allowed), you have to understand that LSU was the best passing offense they've faced, and no one's going to call Anthony Jennings a consistent threat through the air. They're there because teams haven't passed on them much and they haven't had the talent to do so consistently.
A correction is likely to come without improvement here.
0. To stick with the "opponents hit big plays on the Badgers" theme, this represents the number of touchdowns the Badgers have allowed in the red zone. Which in and of itself is good. But if Wisconsin gets hit with the Admiral Ackbar-brand trap, it's going to come with a team that has a decent defense (or a defense Andy Ludwig can't figure out) and receivers that can make the defense pay.
So basically, hi, my name is Andrew, and I'm kind of worried about the Maryland game.
I've given you a lot of numbers. And I know some of you are probably like, "When are we going to get to the part where we can make fun of Andy Ludwig already? And to the strawmen both real and imagined?" I'm going to leave you with two pieces to make fun of Ludwig with.
2. Jordan Frederick is who he is at this point. He's a tremendous blocker who really is a lot better as a "find a zone and sit" receiver. He's also been the face of the lack of depth at receiver. Fredrick finished second among wideouts in catches the last two seasons with 17 in 2012 and 12 last season. Right now he's where he was again, only this time with two catches.
That's right, Wisconsin's No. 2 receiver is on pace for a whopping six grabs. This could be a situation where the passing game turns into the curdled milk of 2012. Jacob Pedersen finished second that season with 27 catches and Jared Abbrederis fell off the breakneck pace of his start and finished the year 22-319-0 because he had so little help.
Right now? Sam Arneson is second on the team with nine catches. Multiply that by three, and I'll see you when you recover from your mind being blown. Alex Erickson is being relied on by Tanner McEvoy in such a fashion that you have to wonder just how complex the passes that are being called here. Every incomplete pass from McEvoy's 11-of-18 effort vs. South Florida was intended for Erickson.
That's right. Thirteen targets. Seventy-two percent of all passes thrown. Erickson came down with six. Defenses are going to see that, and what's going to happen when they realize Erickson's another one of those quick, smart, walk-on types? You'd think more passes to backs and tight ends, but have I got a number for you.
0. That's right. We're going back to zero. Why? Because that's the number of passes the Badgers have called on 3rd-and-short (3rd-and-3 or less). Kind of explains why the line played like hot garbage through the first half of the South Florida game, right? It's almost as if the Bulls had someone who studied tendencies and told their coach that the Badgers will just run the ball forever if you let them on 3rd-and-short.
Don't think I'm telling you that the Badgers should go four verts on 3rd-and-short and Madden that stuff down the field. I get the Badgers have a veteran, experienced line and two running backs who could start anywhere. That said, there's a certain amount of leverage that comes by planting doubt in a defense's mind. The one time the Badgers called a pass on 4th-and-short, it was an easy touchdown to Austin Ramesh. The first time they call a pass on 3rd-and-short, the element of surprise should shock the defense into giving Wisconsin a big gain.
Then the Badgers would find easier sledding running the ball. It's simple leverage theory. You use your reputation to make people worry about one thing, and then you use deviance in tendency to make them worry about the other. A good coordinator makes a team think that the other thing could be coming even if it isn't. Right now? I'll leave it to you to decide.
It's four games in, and the offense is inconsistent, but it's talented enough to overcome the bumps. And we saw that Ludwig can make adjustments on the fly. The running game got more open when they finally went and threw that pass out to Corey Clement, but the fact of the matter is that I'm out here with just eyes and play charts and I'm seeing this.
You'd have to think I'm not the only one, right?