Week 3 of the 2012 Wisconsin Badgers football season is probably one that will go unmentioned when fans look back at notable games or events over the last 10-ish years of the program’s history.
After all, the No. 22 Badgers were hosting a non-conference, non-Power Five team coming off a bland 7–6 season. However, when you start peeling back some of the layers, things get interesting:
- Bret Bielema was coaching on the Badgers’ sideline.
- Two guys named Gary Andersen and Dave Aranda roamed the other sideline for Utah State.
- Danny O’Brien started the game at quarterback for the Badgers and halftime marked the start of the Joel Stave era.
- To top things off, the Badgers were very close to losing the game. Utah State missed a game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter and Wisconsin escaped, 16–14.
A year later: Bielema was gone, Andersen was on the Badgers’ sideline and Wisconsin was coming off a bland (8–6) record of its own.
Five years later, the programs will meet on Friday night for the third time ever under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium, and Wisconsin seems to be on much stabler footing. Paul Chryst begins his third season as head coach of the Badgers and leads his 2017 squad against the Utah State Aggies. Chryst finds his team ranked in the top 10 nationally after a 2016 season that saw it finish with 11 wins, including a Cotton Bowl victory.
Utah State, on the other hand, may be entering the 2017 season with less stability than it had in 2012. The Aggies finished with a record of 3–9 in 2016, including just one in-conference win. Head coach Matt Wells enters a pivotal season—Utah State has followed a pair of winning seasons in Wells’ first two campaigns with a pair of two sub-.500 seasons. They’ll also break-in a new offensive coordinator against a Wisconsin defense that figures to be one of the nation’s best once again.
When and where is the game?
The first game of the 2017 schedule kicks off at 8 p.m. CDT from Camp Randall Stadium. It marks the start of the 100th season of Wisconsin football at Camp Randall and the latest start time at the stadium since the 2003 victory over Ohio State.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast via ESPN. Adam Amin will call the action with Dusty Dvoracek giving color commentary and Molly McGrath working the sidelines.
How can I stream the game online?
How can I listen to it on the radio?
On the Badgers Sports Network, where you’ll find the usual of team of Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, Mark Tauscher, and Patrick Herb. On satellite radio, you’ll find the broadcast on Sirius 135/XM 195. Otherwise, head to BadgerSportsNetwork.com to find it. You can also listen on iHeartRadio (iOS/Android/online) by searching “WIBA.”
Wisconsin Badgers (depth chart on page 11)
Last year: 11–3 overall, 7–2 in Big Ten; defeated Western Michigan in Cotton Bowl, 24–16
Polls: No. 9 in AP Top 25, No. 10 in Amway Coaches’ Poll
Head coach: Paul Chryst, third season at Wisconsin (21–6)
Utah State Aggies (depth chart)
Last year: 3–9 overall, 1–7 in Mountain West Conference
Polls: Not ranked
Head coach: Matt Wells, fifth season at Utah State (28–25)
What can I expect to see?
When Utah State has the ball:
2016 Utah State Offense
|Points||23.9||11th (of 12)||108th|
|Total Yards||376.3||11th (of 12)||96th|
The Aggies and new offensive coordinator David Yost will spread the Wisconsin defense and try to keep a quick tempo, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be pass-heavy. The program is looking for its ninth straight season with at least 2,000 rushing yards, and senior running back Tonny Lindsey, Jr., returns after leading the team with 763 yards and six rushing touchdowns last season. Kent Myers is back at quarterback for Utah State after a junior year that saw him complete 58 percent of his passes. Myers is experienced (Friday’s game will mark his 27th start) and should bring a threat on the ground; he finished 2016 with 449 rushing yards and six touchdowns of his own.
While the running back and quarterback positions return much of their production from a year ago, the wide receiver and offensive line positions do not. Wide receiver Ron’Quavion Tarver is the only returning pass catcher with significant experience, though he led the team in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2016. Likewise, the offensive line returns just one starter and lost three all-conference performers last year. Replacing those lost starters are a trio of junior college transfers; if they don’t assimilate quickly, things could go south very quickly against the Wisconsin front.
2016 Wisconsin Defense
|Stat||Per Game||Big Ten||NCAA|
|Stat||Per Game||Big Ten||NCAA|
|Rush Yards Allowed||98.8||1st||3rd|
|Pass Yards Allowed||202.6||6th||30th|
Jim Leonhard is no stranger to big defensive plays under the lights of Camp Randall, especially in season openers. In 2002, Leonhard intercepted two passes to help Wisconsin defeat Fresno State in the season opener. In 2017, he’ll be the defensive coordinator for a defense that looks to make some big plays of its own. It will have to do so all season without Jack Cichy and Zack Baun, both lost to season-ending injuries during camp.
Despite the injuries and departures to the NFL, the Wisconsin defense should again be among the best in the nation. Every player on the defensive line returns, forming a strong veteran front that should give Utah State fits. The NFL claimed both Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt from the outside linebacker spots, but the Badgers still boast depth at their primary pass-rushing positions—Leon Jacobs caught a ton of hype during camp, while Garret Dooley saw a lot of action a year ago. The inside linebackers bring experience and talent as well, with T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly manning the middle. Chris Orr will be in the mix as well after missing all of 2016 due to injury.
There was some turnover in the secondary as well, as Leo Musso and Sojourn Shelton both graduated. Hawaii transfer cornerback Nick Nelson will fill Shelton’s shoes and Natrell Jamerson has moved from cornerback to take over for Musso.
When Wisconsin has the ball:
2016 Wisconsin Offense
|Stat||Per Game||Big Ten||NCAA|
|Stat||Per Game||Big Ten||NCAA|
The Wisconsin offense could be just as fun as the defense, but for other reasons. The defense is solid, steady—you know what you’re getting from them. The offense? You’re getting a lot of upside and growth. The offense should be good, but how good?
Up front, the Badgers lost offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk to the NFL but return everyone else otherwise. They should continue to grow in 2017 and be closer to traditional Wisconsin lines than in recent years. Michael Deiter has moved from center to Ramcyzk’s left tackle spot, while redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz slides into the spot at center left by Deiter. Deiter’s transition outside and Biadasz’s development should be fun and interesting to watch on Friday.
Ducking under Biadasz is sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook is now the main man at the position after splitting snaps last season with Bart Houston. Whether or not Hornibrook takes the next step will play a major role in 2017. Hornibrook will throw to a receiving corps that continues to search for the consistency it’s lacked since Jared Abbrederis’s graduation. Senior Jazz Peavy returns and will be a factor in the run and pass game. Behind him is a youth movement: sophomores Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor will see increased roles on Friday, while freshman Danny Davis should be an interesting watch as well. Of course, tight end Troy Fumagalli returns for his senior season and should play a major pass-catching role.
Dare Ogunbowale and Corey Clement are gone to the NFL but, as usual, there’s no lack of talent in the Wisconsin backfield. Bradrick Shaw will combine with Pitt transfer Chris James to fill the void left by the departures. True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has risen up the depth chart this fall to the point that he’s listed as a co-starter with Shaw and James. Friday could set the stage for the rest of his rookie campaign.
2016 Utah State Defense
|Rush Yards Allowed||203.3||6th||91st|
|Pass Yards Allowed||176.5||3rd||11th|
You never not want to enter a game against Wisconsin with question marks on the defensive front. Unfortunately for Utah State, the Aggies are in that exact situation. They lost three defensive line starters and two linebackers on the defensive side of the ball, adding stress to an already stressful task: stopping the Wisconsin run and covering Fumagalli.
The Utah State secondary is much more solid and could challenge Hornibrook if needed. Safety Dallin Leavitt is the Aggies’ returning tackler and led the team in interceptions a year ago with three. The BYU transfer missed some games due to injury but could be one of the best in the Mountain West Conference. You could say that the corners are opposites, at least on paper: senior Jalen Davis has started 35 games and stands 5’10, while Ja’Marcus Ingram is a redshirt freshman measuring 6’1.
Rafael Gaglianone returns to the Wisconsin kicking game after missing much of 2016 with an injury. The junior should provide consistency on field goals, while P.J. Rosowski continues to show off his leg on kickoffs. Anthony Lotti will take on punts again in his second season. Nick Nelson returned punts at Hawaii and will continue to do so with Wisconsin.
Utah State’s special teams probably cost the Aggies a victory against Wisconsin in 2012—Kenzel Doe took a punt 82 yards for a touchdown to fuel the Badgers’ second-half comeback, and the Aggies missed the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter. If they’re going to pull the upset on Friday, some inexperienced special teamers will have to avoid similar mistakes as Utah State’s kickers and return men from a season ago all need to be replaced.