After giving up 502 yards of offense to Alabama in the season opener, the Wisconsin Badgers are looking to rebound in their home opener against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
The RedHawks are looking to stun the Badgers after a 26-7 win over FBS Presbyterian. This week, we spoke with Jordan Rinard, a contributor over at Hustle Belt to find out more about the Badgers' opponent and what to expect from some of the game's key matchups.
Miami stormed past Presbyterian thanks in part to the performance of running back Alonzo Smith (12 carries, 86 yards, two touchdowns). What do the RedHawks need to do to replicate that performance against the Badgers?
For Miami to have that kind of success on the ground again, it needs to use all of the running backs in its stable. Smith is more of the powerful inside runner while Kenny Young is the speedster who can break big runs and make plays in the slot. Miami was more committed to the run on Saturday than in years past to the tune of 40 rushes to 23 passes, so the team is trying to emphasize the run more. However, you need good offensive line play to run the ball, and the RedHawks had that against a smaller Presbyterian front last weekend. Guard Colin Buchanan was injured in the game last Saturday, and the team had to rely on Jimmy Rousher, a converted defensive tackle, and Zach Hovey, who is two years removed from being a high school tight end, to fill the spot.
Joel Stave surprised some people with a solid passing performance against the Alabama. However, the RedHawks' strength is in their secondary. How can they subdue Wisconsin’s passing attack?
Miami can give offenses issues schematically as it's a multiple-front quarters team, meaning they go from 4-3 to 3-4 pretty easily while the safeties are generally freed up to make plays on the ball, which can confuse the offense. Given that the Badgers have three inexperienced starters on the offensive line, I expect some stunting and twisting on the defensive front as well as some zone blitzes to take advantage of that matchup. The 'Hawks have some guys in the secondary that can make plays with safety Brison Burris picking up a TFL and a forced fumble against Presbyterian while fellow safety Tony Reid recorded the second interception of his young career as well as a fumble recovery.
Which player on Miami will need to break out in order to keep the game close?
Someone on the defensive line needs to step up and be a consistent pass rusher. Bryson Albright has mostly been that guy with 18.5 sacks in his career, but J.T. Jones is the only other starter who has recorded a sack with eight in two seasons. Miami needs to be able to create pressure without blitzing so that the team can match up with the skill players better and be more able to dictate the game to Wisconsin. If they need to blitz a lot to hurry the quarterback, pulling off the upset becomes much harder, as it's up to Stave to find the open passing windows.
Which matchup will cause the RedHawks the most difficulty?
The game for Miami ultimately comes down to the front seven. Despite the injuries to the Badgers' offense, I'm not sure that they'll be able to physically hold up against a traditionally strong offensive line, especially when the defense gives up 155 yards on the ground to an FCS team. The RedHawks' only chance to knock off the Badgers is to hold them to less than 4 yards per carry and force Wisconsin into passing downs where Stave has to make big-time throws.
What’s your prediction for the game?
I see the game playing out much like last season's Miami-Michigan game: Miami keeps it close early (Miami was down 14-10 in the second quarter at one point) but eventually fades as the physicality on both sides of the line of scrimmage wears the RedHawks down. It'll be a lot closer than the 32-point spread with Michael Caputo's status up in the air, but the score will be something along the lines of 34-17 in favor of the Badgers.