The Wisconsin Badgers return to Camp Randall to take on New Mexico State this week. The Aggies are 0-3, and rate as one of the worst teams in the country, so this should be one that Wisconsin can handle with relative ease. Still, the game has to be played and anything, truly anything, can happen in this sport. What do the Badgers need to do to take care of business in this one? Let’s take a look.
Establish the run
Bobby Engram’s new offense is still under development. We certainly saw how discombobulated things can look when this team isn’t on the same page. It might be time for Engram to go back to ole reliable…the run game. As far as total offense goes Wisconsin is middle of the road at best. The Vanderbilt Commodores, Toledo Rockets, Arkansas State Redwolves, and Illinois Fighting Illini have had more offensive success than the Badgers have. It’s not good. But it’s not all entirely bad either.
The offense is averaging around 200 yards a game. That’s historically below what Wisconsin’s capable of. The run will open up the pass no question so release the Kraken and stuff the pound the rock this weekend. Additionally, that’s the way to attack this New Mexico State defense that is currently ranked 112th in run defense. I want Engram’s offense to work, I really do. But it’s not happening thus far. Maybe as the season gets going the balanced attack will get clicking, but it seems like this game should be won on the ground and put away in a hurry.
I hope I’m wrong about my feelings about the offense initially and that last week’s game wake-up call for the team. Enough so that when they take the field this Saturday Mertz, Allen, Mellusi and company go scorched earth on the Aggies with Engram's offense and a new age for Wisconsin football begins…Too much to wish for? Yes, probably.
Shutdown the run
The Aggies have second to last offensive yard production in the entire NCAA FBS. In a bizarre and equally hilarious twist the Iowa Hawkeyes, yes the Hawkeyes of the Big Ten, have the worst offensive yard production in college football. The Aggies don’t possess an overly complicated offense but to be fair they haven’t even been able to create enough separation upfront to run said offense.
None of their backs ran for more than one hundred yards. The only player that’s capped the century mark is quarterback Diego Pavia and that’s mostly due to running away out of fear as his pocket around him collapsed.
Wisconsin needs to pounce on this and take advantage. The defense should be blowing up the trenches and getting into the backfield consistently. Even on passing plays, New Mexico State hasn’t been able to get the ball out quickly or accurately. It’s the team’s biggest weakness. Currently sitting with six interceptions to 1 touchdown the Badgers should have a field day not only creating pressure but also eating up broken-down routes and picking off a handful of passes.
Bounce back from last week
Wisconsin has the ability and opportunity to reboot everything that fell apart vs Washington State. This team has the talent but they’ve failed to develop the connection as a cohesive unit, especially upfront on the offensive line. I hate that I’m about to reference Minnesota, even worse using them as an example. But look we need to do what the Gophers did and have this game wrapped up by halftime. The Badgers should want to get in, take care of things, and get out. While New Mexico State has yet to get a win they’ve been able to hang around in two of their three games.
The last thing Wisconsin needs is a scare or God forbid another home-field meltdown in front of the Badger faithful. This season isn’t over. While it’s not the ideal start that any Wisconsin fan wanted to see, the Badgers do have a chance to save their season and revive their hopes of contending for a Big Ten title with a strong bounce-back game here.
If they’re able to establish an early lead and shut down the opponent’s offense as they should, this game could do wonders for them heading into a matchup with the top-ranked Buckeyes. We’re not out of this one yet Wisconsin. Don’t give up on this team, there’s still plenty of football to be played.