The Wisconsin Badgers kick off game No. 2 in Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday against the New Mexico Lobos. The Badgers (1–0) took care of business in week one and will look to improve this week against a New Mexico team that finished 3–9 and just 1–7 in the Mountain West last season.
While the Lobos struggled in 2017, they did get 2018 started on a positive foot with a 62–30 win against FCS Incarnate Word last weekend. That said, what do the Badgers need to do to start their season win streak this week?
Dominate the Line of Scrimmage
There was a lot of talk about Wisconsin’s offensive line in the preseason, and for warranted reasons. It’s an experienced group with All-Americans and preseason award nominees all over it.
Despite that, I don’t believe the Badgers feel that they played their best last week in the running game. The good thing for Wisconsin this week is that it has an opposing defense coming to town that struggled against a poor FCS team (1–10 in 2017), giving up 566 yards of total offense with 244 coming on the ground. The Lobos allowed 7.2 yards per rush, getting slashed for chunk plays before eventually allowing two long, breakaway runs for 90 and 58 yards.
When Wisconsin was able to give Jonathan Taylor some room into the second level last week, he broke away and scored two impressive touchdowns. I would expect the Badgers to do even more of the same this week and wear down the Lobo front seven. If it happens, we’ll see even more of these...
Defend the Deep Ball
The next key I believe for Wisconsin is defending the pass, specifically the deep ball. Overall, the new faces in the Badgers’ secondary were impressive last week, especially Scott Nelson’s debut in which he recorded seven total tackles. Faion Hicks recorded a pick, and Caesar Williams held his own against a similar attack to what they’ll see against New Mexico. The difference, however, is that the Lobos will take deep shots anytime they can. In their opener, the Lobos had 10 different receivers record receptions, with eight hooking up for passing plays over 30 yards, the long being 69 and 51-yard touchdown passes. That led to New Mexico quarterback Tevaka Tuioti recording four passing touchdowns on 327 yards. I know it was against a poor FCS team, but the scheme will be the same. If they defend and close well, look for both Nelson and Dixon to have a big game like they did a week ago.
Control the Time of Possession
The Badgers should have no trouble with this one, but it is worth noting that New Mexico possessed the football for 32 minutes in their opener, ranking in the top 20 for FBS teams. However, the Badgers ranked second in the same category, trailing just Navy.
Look, it’s what the Badgers do. They’ve been in the top five in total TOP in every season under Paul Chryst. If you try to beat the Badgers in controlling the ball, chances are you’ll lose. New Mexico will certainly attempt it with their new offensive scheme, but this will be only its second game breaking in the true spread offense, transitioning away from the triple-option attack from a season ago. While it may work fine against Incarnate Word, it’s tough to make such a drastic switch on offense and not run into some kinks. If the Badgers do what they almost always do, coupled with the things above, they’ll be just fine and roll in this one.