Welcome back to another Bucky’s 5th Quarter’s roundtable session, where the points don’t count, and we always fire Drew Hamm. Here’s the first roundtable we did this week, covering breakout candidates for Wisconsin and the strengths/weaknesses of this year’s roster.
What matchup are you most looking forward to on Saturday?
Drew Hamm: Putting bratwurst in gumbo is what I’m looking forward to the most on Saturday. However, Wisconsin’s front seven versus presumed Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette is as enticing a matchup as we’ll see all season.
Owen Riese: Being an offensive lineman, I’m looking at this a little differently. LSU is intriguing from the standpoint that, in true Andy Ludwig-like fashion, the Tigers seemingly randomly switch from a pro-style offense to a spread offense mid-drive. When LSU lines up in its pro formations (I-formation, off-set I, ace, etc.), I expect Olive Sagapolu to be out there at nose tackle, against LSU’s stud center Ethan Pocic. Pocic is the top center prospect looking toward the 2017 NFL Draft. If Sagapolu can hold at the point of attack, that’ll help a ton. When LSU goes spread, I anticipate Wisconsin bringing in true freshman Garrett Rand. Rand gives up around 25 pounds to Pocic, along with four years of playing experience. If Pocic gets rolling (he set a LSU record for knockdown blocks in 2015), the inside linebackers are in real trouble. If Sagapolu/Rand can maintain the line of scrimmage and be stout at the point of attack, UW has much better odds in this matchup.
Neal Olson: Giving LSU and Wisconsin fans in-stadium access to alcohol seems like tempting fate. Stadium security versus two fan bases with a rich history of showing up on the top party school lists seems like the event to watch here.
In regard to the actual football game, Drew nails the matchup to watch. Fournette is expected to run roughshod over SEC defenses, along with plenty of defensive players that will soon be suited up on Sundays in the NFL. Will Wisconsin be able to hold him in check with its equally talented defense?
Curt Hogg: I think you’re seriously overlooking things if you don’t pick Jake Kocorowski versus the Lambeau Field press box spread here. I expect live tweets, Jake [Jake note: Tweets maybe, but I’ll dominate the food buffet line if they have one]. For actual football matchups, I’ll take LSU’s dime formation made up of a combined 26 out of 30 possible recruiting stars. That is a bunch of talent. They’ll be going up against Wisconsin’s group of three-stars, which means that the underdog role has been assumed.
Also, LSU has that Dave Aranda guy on its sideline now.
Where do you think the Badgers could exploit the Tigers, and vice versa?
Drew: LSU has a couple of injuries on the defensive line and is breaking in a new system, so if Clement can get going early and the Badgers can sustain a couple of drives (ending in points, duh), the Wisconsin running game could exploit a confused LSU defense. That being said, if Wisconsin ever has to pass for an extended period of time, the game is over. LSU’s secondary is crammed with defensive backs the likes of which Bart Houston has never seen. Also, if Wisconsin is passing a bunch, the Badgers are probably already behind.
Owen: Wisconsin is going to have to try and force the issue because, simply put, it can’t matchup fire-with-fire with LSU. The Badgers are going to have to stack the box and make Brandon Harris, a less-than-revered quarterback heading into his junior season, beat them. Wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural will have something to say about that, but the Badgers have to sell out and give themselves a chance. Conservative is not the way to go in this scenario.
The other interesting thing to watch is that, per Zach Heilprin, Dave Aranda has only faced two “first-time starter” quarterbacks in his career, and combined at UW they went 27-of-38 for 470 and four TDs. I’m never excited about facing a Dave Aranda defense, but if there’s one time to do it, it’s in the beginning stages of installation of the defense with injuries along the defensive line, like Drew said.
Neal: Everyone will be expecting LSU to pound the ball with Fournette, but the Tigers can certainly test the Badgers’ inexperience and lack of size in the secondary. LSU’s starting wide receivers are both over 6’2, while Wisconsin won’t start any defensive backs over 6’0. That seems ... unappealing.
For the Badgers, it starts with the run game. As Drew notes, LSU does have some injuries on defense, and if any a time Wisconsin needs a Corey Clement re-breakout game, this is the game to do it. To have any hopes of hanging with the Tigers, the Badgers’ offense is going to need multiple 10 or 12-play touchdown drives.
Curt: Run the dang ball. The Badgers’ offensive line, though young, has the game experience under its belt, and we all know what Clement can do at his best. This would be a good game for some serious ball possession and long, classic Wisconsin drives.
What are your keys for the game and, ultimately, your prediction?
Drew: Laying a nice base of beer down before switching to bourbon is going to be important for both fan bases. Cheese curds, sausage and the occasional water will also help. Staying out of passing situations where players like Arden Key can’t pin their ears back and run around Wisconsin’s tackles is definitely important for the Badgers. The same goes for LSU, though! The Tigers’ quarterback situation is not perfect and Brandon Harris is not a world-beater under center. If Wisconsin can create havoc for him, turnovers are there for the taking. Fun/terrifying fact: LSU’s backup running back, Derrius Guice, averaged more yards per carry than Fournette last year. SWEET DREAMS!
Owen: Like any game Wisconsin wants a chance in, the Badgers have got to control the line of scrimmage. Unlike a year ago, LSU’s front isn’t quite as physically imposing as Alabama’s, so the Tigers won’t be coming to a gun fight with three first-time starter offensive linemen. Wisconsin has to be able to sustain drives with the running game and keep Houston in short third-down attempts and save himself from himself. Defensively, the Badgers just can’t let Fournette dictate the pace of the game. He’s going to get his 100-to-150 yards and a touchdown or two. If they can contain those spurts and make Harris beat them consistently, they’ve got a chance. Ultimately, I think Wisconsin comes up a little short again against the true elite of college football. LSU 21, Wisconsin 13.
Neal: Despite the attempted generation of good feelings earlier and avoiding all the doom-and-gloom schedule hot takes, this game is really going to be a challenge for Wisconsin to come out on top. The Badgers will need to control the clock, generate a few turnovers and otherwise play a near-flawless game.
Often in games such as these, the outcome is decided by a handful of big plays. Last season, Wisconsin missed that threat and the offense had to work extremely hard just to move the chains.
However, if the Badgers are able to break a few big runs from Clement and connect on a few long pass plays early, that could be enough to give them confidence to play toe-to-toe with a national title contender. Unfortunately, I think this plays out similar to the Alabama game that opened last season. Wisconsin holds ots own for a half, but ultimately cannot keep up down the stretch and loses 24-13.
Curt: I hit on this point briefly in the last answer, but I think the Badgers are going to need the advantage in time of possession and win the field-position battle. Eighty-yard drives with a first-time starter against an LSU defense led by Aranda are not ideal. Fifty-yard drives are much more so. This battle is going to be won in the trenches if Wisconsin is to pull off the upset, but LSU is, like, a good football team and so coming away 1-0 is much easier said than done. LSU 28, Wisconsin 17.