The thing about a non-conference schedule is that for the most part, there's always going to be a game or three for the higher level team to get the win. It brings them a higher chance to get to one of the 40 or 50 bowl games and it brings them a way to feel good about life and the way things are going.
And for a team that finished 2-10 in the MAC last season, it happens for them as well.
As the Badgers take three steps down in competition level, the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks are going to take three steps up coming off a 26-7 win over the Presbyterian Blue Hose. Redshirt senior quarterback Drew Kummer had himself an efficient day in his 2015 debut, going 14-19 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt junior Rokeem Williams was the deeper threat, with redshirt sophomore Jared Murphy being the leading returning receiver.
Of course, with an experienced secondary -- especially with the surprising clearance of Michael Caputo, and a general attack from the front seven that's going to go up against an offensive line that allowed 42 sacks in 2014 and has to replace three starters -- the question of time for Kummer is going to be a big one.
Miami (Ohio) have two redshirt freshmen running backs in Alonzo Smith and Kenny Young (who gained 86 and 59 yards rushing, respectively, last Saturday) that are going to try and keep the Badgers from going downhill on the Redhawks. The Badgers get rolling downhill, and they could smash up the Redhawks on the offensive side of the ball.
What of the Badgers offensive line? Well, they should get a game to feel good about life and the way things are going. While the Redhawks did get 10 quarterback hurries and five tackles for loss last week, you have to remember two things here. First, it was against a marginally good team in the FCS Big South conference -- and second, that self-same sock nicknamed team ended up rushing for 3.8 yards per carry. While the status of Wisconsin junior running back Corey Clement is up in the air for game-time, you can see redshirt junior Dare Ogunbowale and redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal having success on the ground against this defense.
Passing-wise, the question of how exactly the Badgers will perform will be based on the health and well-being of redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy in terms of getting open. Sure, redshirt senior wide receiver Alex Erickson is going to find purchase in a game where the one opposing teams superstar is now covering receivers for the Green Bay Packers (cornerback and second-round draft pick Quentin Rollins), and we know that Ogunbowale, along with redshirt seniors fullback Derek Watt and tight end Austin Traylor, were consistently successful in getting short passes. I mean, if you can make it against Alabama, you can make it pretty much anywhere.
But McEvoy being a success is probably going to be the difference between the Badgers winning and the Badgers covering the 31 or 32 point spread. If he gets on track and looks like he did in fall camp, and this could get into beat down territory.
Also, don't be surprised if the Badgers have a moment of special teams success. Sure, senior Kaleb Patterson is a kicker with a big leg that can get wonky, as he has a career 73.8 percent accuracy (31 for 42) on field goals, but he also tends to get kickoffs that have returns. In and of itself, that's not a great problem, but Miami (Ohio) also allowed two touchdowns on kickoff returns last season -- which made the RedHawks one of nine teams that allowed multiple kicks returned for scores.
Wisconsin has someone back returning kicks with the athleticism of sophomore Natrell Jamerson, there's definitely going to be opportunity for some swell field position.
Long story short, the Badgers are likely going to cruise to victory whether or not the Badgers are at full strength. Miami (OhIo) does have a chance to make it a frustrating sort of win, but the Badgers should make the home opener something where they go back to a Wisconsin-style victory.