Here is our weekly roundtable featuring Ryan, Bob, Belz and Rock. Everyone seems to agree that yesterday’s game was a rain-soaked success. Let’s break down why and also discuss our early thoughts on Michigan State and which prison the Kent State mascot should be sent to.
Of all the games of football I’ve watched, that was certainly one of them. What positives are you taking away from the game?
Ryan: The offense got back on track after a down week and the defense is…disruptive. Wisconsin had 19 sacks in 2018 and through five games this season they have 21. They are finding ways to get to the quarterback and I don’t see that stopping.
Bob: I don’t think there are any new injuries, which is nice! Jonathan Taylor dominated the game and also keep his carries under 20; he should be well-rested heading into the MSU game. It was also a nice confidence booster for Jack Coan who completed 80% of his passes.
Also, Wisconsin’s defense has to be so terrifying for opposing quarterbacks.
Last, I like that The Badgers have gotten nice kickoff returns each of the last two weeks.
Rock: Just a confirmation that Wisconsin can thump teams they should thump. It’s another Non-Conference Shutout Blowout Wisconsin Double-Whammy Winner. The only time the outcome was in doubt was looking at the radar for lightning. Kent State should never have threatened the Badgers, and they didn’t. That was all anyone could ask for.
Belz: I enjoyed seeing the Wisconsin offense look much more crisp. The defense was constantly in the backfield making plays with eight sacks. Overall it was a great tune-up game to stay healthy and let the backups get reps as the team prepares for Michigan State.
What can the Badgers work on before welcoming Michigan State to Camp Randall next weekend?
Ryan: Special teams. Apart from Zach Hintze, the rest of the unit has shown that there is some room for improvement.
Bob: If Jack Dunn could not muff any punts next week,
I am not looking forward to the time Wisconsin needs a critical field goal from Collin Larsh. Cognitively, I know he can hit it. However, I’m going to be so nervous during the time leading up to the kick.
Rock: Deep passes? The offense hasn’t had a huge need or demand for downfield shots, but it sure would make everyone feel a lot better if they could maybe not be tied with Army for ‘completions that went for over 30 yards’ this season. I’m not asking for air raid, just get closer to the middle of the country and I’d be a happy camper. There will be a game, perhaps around the end of this month, where this talented wide receiver corps will need to step up and make the defense pay for keeping their attention on Jonathan Taylor.
Also, their homecoming floats!
Belz: I still think it is special team, for the same reasons that Bob has already mentioned.
Who gets your game balls on offense and defense? You can’t say Jonathan Taylor for offense, obviously he gets one.
Ryan: Offensively I am going to say Jack Coan. He looked poised in the pocket and also had a good run. He looked a lot better than he did against Northwestern and he completed 80 percent of his passes. On defense, Zack Baun deserved a game ball for his three sacks.
Bob: How about John Chenal rushing for 24 yards?!?! I loved every one of those fullback dives. On defense, Zack Baun had three sacks. That deserves a nod. Deron Harrell has a couple of pass breakups, so give him one, too.
Rock:Let’s cut the game ball in half, fill them with totchos and let the offensive line have ‘em. There were very few offensive plays where they didn’t get what they wanted. It was a steady, consistent effort all game long by the front five.
Defensively, Zack Baun continued his crusade against vertical quarterbacks.
Belz: Sans Jonathan Taylor, I will say the entirety of the offensive line. They protected Jack Coan well, and Taylor was able to average 9.8 yards per carry on the ground. Even while the second team unit was out there, Wisconsin was able to impose their will on the ground with Nakia Watson, Brady Schipper, and others running behind that offensive line. For that reason, the offensive line gets my vote.
On defense, Zack Baun. Another three sacks says it all.
Should the student section be smaller for games like this? What can the athletic department do to get more butts in seats?
Ryan: It’s tough… you can’t change the size of the student section, but you also can’t make people come to the games. The weather played a factor, the 11:00 a.m. start likely played a factor, the competition likely played a factor, the string of consecutive home games may have played a factor too.
Bob: Come on Drew! This could be a 10,000 word essay. You need to lower the cost (price and opportunity) and improve the experience. These types of games aren’t getting great attendance in 99% of FBS stadiums. How important is it that these games are filled to capacity? You can get a full stadium but also fail at other outcomes. It’s a balancing act.
A practical solution would be to avoid playing so many consecutive home games. After several weeks, the games lose their luster.
Rock: Listed attendance for the game (aka sold tickets) is 74,559. This was a game that was contractually obligated to happen, because it wasn’t scheduled against Virginia Tech. Badgerville was cancelled, the line was five touchdowns, and there was a high chance of rain all day. There’s a lot the athletic department can do to get people to come to Camp Randall early, but none of the suggestions involve scheduling a team that lost all three bowls it’s ever appeared in.
Also, if your reaction to ‘Badgerville was cancelled’ was ‘who cares’ then clearly Wisconsin Athletics can’t and won’t do much. Trap sprung.
Belz: The crazy string of home games like Bob said is a factor, but so was the weather. I think if it was not raining for the vast majority of the game with temperatures in the 50’s there would have been a larger turnout. The athletic department could have done another giveaway to students and other attendees to spice it up as well.
Which maximum security prison should we send the Kent State mascot to?
Ryan: I think having to be the mascot for Kent State is punishment enough.
Bob: Apparently Flash the Eagle is already in witness protection; it didn’t bother to show up at Camp Randall on Saturday.
To answer your question; send him to the prison where they sent Buster Bluth.
Rock: Let him bunk with General Zod in the Phantom Zone.
Belz: I think Chris Orr took offense to what Flash was cooking up this week in his twitter beef with Ryan, and responded with shutting down their offense. No further words are needed for that silly Eagle.
Very early thoughts on the matchup with MSU for next week.
Ryan: Wisconsin’s introduction of the play-action pass to the offense will be a big help as teams begin to stack the box and force the Badgers to beat them through the air. If Taylor can do Taylor things and Coan can put up some decent numbers, the defense will handle the rest.
Bob: In the continuum between Coan vs. Michigan and Coan vs. Northwestern, I wonder what type of performance he will put up against MSU. That will be a significant factor in who wins the game. To Coan’s credit, his two best games were against teams from the state of Michigan.
Also, if Taylor can rush for 150+ and 3+ TD against a stellar MSU defense, his Heisman campaign will go into overdrive.
Rock: Their front seven. Sparty’s been able to get into the backfield often, posting at least six TFL’s in every game. Not just sacks, it’s getting the running back before he hits the line of scrimmage too. Offensively, QB Brian Lewerke’s been asked to carry a lot of the offensive load - he’s thrown for 260 yards a game at a 58% clip. Their main running back Elijah Collins had a big day against Western Michigan. Take that away, and he’s at 3.9 YPC and 56 yards a game. A disruptive defense paired with an offense that is at best, shaky - this is in fact a Michigan State team.
Belz: I think the key will be getting the running game going. Ohio State was able to run the ball on MSU yesterday, with a couple of chunk plays too. If Taylor can do so, that will go a long way in helping the Wisconsin offense be more multiple. At this point, the Wisconsin defense has earned my trust, so it will be up to the offense to do their part.