The Wisconsin Badgers face off against the Washington State Cougars at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, marking a matchup between two 1-0 teams after the former defeated the Illinois State Redbirds and the latter defeated the Idaho Vandals in Week 1.
Let’s examine the matchup to watch for between the two teams ahead of Saturday’s Week 2 matchup.
Nakia Watson vs Badgers defense
How could I not involve Nakia Watson, the former Badgers’ running back who transferred to Washington State in 2021?
After a sluggish season in which Watson only rushed for 114 yards on 36 carries, the redshirt senior has already eclipsed that total, gaining 117 yards on 18 carries in Week 1.
Not only does Watson have nice production in 2022, but he’s entering this week with a chip on his shoulder.
“I’m going in there with a chip on my shoulder,” Watson said earlier this offseason. “Knowing what I have to do personally, and knowing that I have something to prove not only to myself but to the fans, to my family, to my friends. I definitely have to go into that game with the right mindset.”
Of course, Watson is facing a strong Badgers defense that allowed just 2.2 yards per carry on 26 attempts in Week 1, making it a tough matchup, especially with the aggressive front seven that Wisconsin has.
Watson is a bigger back, standing at 6’0, 223 pounds, which doesn’t bode as well as a speedy back that can bounce the edge against this defense, allowing Wisconsin to rely more on their stout talent up the middle.
However, the Badgers did initially struggle in Week 1, giving up carries of eight, six, 14, four, and five yards in the first quarter before shutting down the Redbirds offense on the ground.
If Watson can start strong against this Badgers defense, it would provide more hope for the passing attack, where new quarterback Cameron Ward can target taller receivers Donovan Ollie and De’Zhaun Stribling to move the offense more than expected.
However, given the storyline behind the battle, as well as the good performance in Week 1, Nakia Watson and the Badgers’ defense will be the matchup to watch in Week 2.