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Wisconsin football: keys to victory against Kent State

What do the Badgers need to do to handle their business against the Golden Flashes?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve seen from Wisconsin in 2019, but the Badgers were able to handle their business last Saturday, beat Northwestern and move to a 4-0 mark on the season.

Additionally, they picked up a conference win so all in all you can’t ask for too much more. Now Wisconsin stays at home, once again, to take on the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Flashes haven’t had a great year thus far, but former Badger and current head coach Sean Lewis looks to be taking the team in a positive direction.

Wisconsin should win this game handily, but there are still some things that need to get done as the season continues to roll on. Because of that, I didn’t include “just show up” as a key either.

Get back to basics

Wisconsin had an ugly performance last Saturday on the offensive side of the football. There’s no denying that. This week, I think the Badgers need to get back to basics with the ground and passing game to set them up for next week’s clash with a ranked Michigan State team.

Kent State brings in the nation’s worst rush defense, yes 130 of 130, so you have to expect the Badgers to use their strength to run the ball down the throats of this team. That’s fine and dandy and should be expected, but I’d also like to get the passing game back on track here.

The overall game plan wasn’t the best last week, and the passing game struggled because of it. Short, quick passes coupled with a lot of play behind the chains resulted in a pretty ugly offensive passing output. This week, I expect the Badgers to run the ball with ease and work the passing game back to normal off of that.

To set yourselves up for success the following week against the Spartans, you’ll want to have a balanced attack ready to go to neutralize the front seven that Michigan State brings. It’s a very similar situation to Central Michigan as the Badgers have a lower tier MAC team as a sort of prep for a state of Michigan team. I expect Wisconsin to use a lot of those same principles in this one.

Key the QB

The other glaring mismatch in this game is Wisconsin’s pass rush against Kent State’s pass protection. Coming into this week the Badgers rank 20th in team sacks averaging three per game, while Kent State comes in ranked 104th in sacks allowed allowing three per game.

Those figures right there should show you how the Badgers will look to attack this team and exploit their weakness. The Kent State offense is a spread look and runs completely through the quarterback. Dustin Crum has taken over the QB1 role and looked great in their win against Bowling Green. However, Bowling Green isn’t Wisconsin. Crum is currently the leading passer and second leading rusher on this team, so you can see just how often the ball is being put in the hands of the quarterback to make plays.

If the Badgers are looking to stop Kent State and continue to dominate defensively, this will be the way to do it. I expect Jim Leonhard and company to bring pressure early and often, and look to contain the read option looks from the quarterback. If they do that, they should have no problem continuing on the path they’ve been on.

In and out, again

I said this key in the Central Michigan preview, and I hate repeating, but I have to here. The situations are eerily similar. I think the Badgers will be looking to get in and get out of this football game with such a critical opponent on deck. Kent State currently ranks No. 109 in my personal power ratings, which is just ten spots above Central Michigan.

Those two teams are very similar, and I expect much of the same as we saw in the Week 2 home opener. Get the key guys in, get a lead, cover the spread (duh), and get them out. Wisconsin has dealt with their fair of injuries this season and I would hate to see something happen to a key player in a game like this.

Michigan State will be another big test for Wisconsin, so you’ll want all hands on deck. I expect the Badgers to handle their business, get things clicking again and get the guys out to dive fully into conference play once again.