So what did you do during bye week?
I had the opportunity to go out on a date with my amazing wife, took our oldest son out for an exclusive dinner with just him, myself, and some family friends, and yes, tried to do some DIY jobs that failed miserably (hellllllllo, bedroom fan whose light won’t [expletive deleted] work).
In turn, not a lot of football on Saturday afternoon outside of popping my head around the corner to the living-room TV at Purdue and Michigan blaring in the background, then mumbling some obscenity as my attempts at being a handyman failed miserably.
However, that did leave some time throughout the week, and this here Saturday evening (THAT IOWA-PENN STATE FINISH), to look at where the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers stand compared to the rest of their schedule. I’m only going to go through several of their opponents, but through four games for many of these teams, some perceptions have changed with a better sample of what each could bring against the Badgers.
Each game remains winnable, and as long as Wisconsin continues to progress with its injury report not a mile long, it could be a special season in Madison.
Northwestern (home, Sept. 30)
This team got walloped on the road at Duke in the second game of the year and had to fight off Nevada for the season-opening win. The Wildcats seemed to get back on track against Bowling Green (again, just Bowling Green, who’s 0–4 on the year and carries a loss to FCS opponent South Dakota).
The road team in this series has won the past two years.* The Wildcats, who are also coming off a bye, still pose a formidable threat with the duo of quarterback Clayton Thorson and running back Justin Jackson. Jackson has rushed for almost 250 yards, and Thorson has thrown for over 280 yards per game (though he’s only recorded four touchdown passes to three interceptions).
Northwestern seems to have Wisconsin’s number at times, and like Purdue and its passing game, it will be interesting to see how the defensive communication for Wisconsin continues to progress and develop. Then again, the Badgers’ balanced attack could threaten the Wildcats’ defense, which is giving up 410.3 yards per contest (157 on the ground, 253.3 passing).
*Yes, you know why this asterisk is here for. No, not going to bring up the discussion.
Nebraska (road, Oct. 7)
The road game at Lincoln will still be a tough one, but there are major questions to answer (both for Nebraska’s team AND its administration after the firing of athletic director Shawn Eichorst). On one hand, the Huskers’ defense held Northern Illinois to 213 yards on 3.9 yards per attempt and Rutgers to 194 (75 on the first drive, no other drive above 28 yards the rest of the game). Then again, they faced NIU and Rutgers. Though the Badgers’ offense is much more potent, having the Nebraska faithful behind them will be an advantage for the Huskers.
The real answer is what Nebraska’s offense will do under Tanner Lee. Our friends at Corn Nation gave the offensive line a grade of “ZERO” for its effort vs. NIU, but hey, the line didn’t allow a sack against Rutgers. Lee has only completed just over 52 percent of his passes and has thrown nine interceptions. Two of those picks went for touchdowns in the Huskers’ loss to NIU, with another one in the third quarter that went for six against Rutgers.
Purdue (Oct. 14)
I love this story, personally, as Purdue troubled Louisville in the season opener and despite losing 28–10 to Michigan, that loss still wasn’t a blowout. The hire of Brohm, the ex-XFL quarterback turned offensive mastermind at Western Kentucky, though, was the best hire in the country (in my humble opinion).
Before the Michigan game, the Boilermakers were averaging nearly 36 points per game on offense while allowing under 20. Check out Ian Boyd’s breakdown of their early successes.
On Oct. 14, the key match-up will be how Wisconsin’s defense, which is looking solid in Jim Leonhard’s first season, deals with a Purdue offense averaging 392 yards per game (thought it only gained 189 against Michigan). Again, it will probably be a better game than initially thought.
Maryland (Oct. 21)
I had Maryland as one of those teams that looked more menacing than previously thought (the upset of Texas still weighing in my mind), but that was before the disappointing 38–10 loss to Central Florida. The injury to quarterback Kasim Hill deflated the Terps’ offense.
Indiana (Nov. 4)
At 2–1, the Hoosiers held tough against Ohio State for the better part of their 49–21 loss before the wheels came off. They rebounded on the road against Virginia (where former Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer is a grad assistant), defeating the Cavaliers 34–17. Then they took it to Georgia Southern in a 52–17 win.
There’s a ways to go before the Hoosiers host the Badgers in early November, but this may be a tougher challenge. However, it should bear watching the status of quarterback Richard Lagow, who was injured Saturday.
Iowa (Nov. 11)
YOU WERE SO CLOSE, IOWA!!! Kinnick Stadium was electric throughout the night on Saturday evening, and the transition from ruckus crowd to hearing a pin drop at the end of the game after the game-winning touchdown in Penn State’s 21–19 win popped out to me most.
Here’s former Iowa defensive lineman turned WWE superstar Big E watching the end of the game.
The Hawkeyes should not be ashamed of that performance against the No. 4 Nittany Lions, and honestly, Kirk Ferentz’s squad is the biggest challenge to the Badgers in the Big Ten West division.
Running back Akrum Wadley is a beast and linebacker Josey Jewell has all-conference written all over him. This should be a fun one to watch, especially if injuries don’t decimate both programs.
Michigan (Nov. 18)
The Wolverines derailed (note: that verb has HAD to have been overused in the past 12-16 hours) the Boilermakers in West Lafayette after being on full upset alert this week.
With quarterback Wilton Speight going down with injury, Houston transfer John O’Korn came in and led the Wolverines in the 28–10 win, going 18-for-26 for 270 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Going undefeated heading into its bye week, Michigan again—along with the Iowa contest a week prior—looks like the toughest game on Wisconsin’s regular-season schedule.