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Wisconsin opponent watch: BYU week

BYU is definitively good. Beyond the Cougars lay land mines that may or may not be dormant.

Gene Sweeney Jr.


Wisconsin was kind of sluggish to start, but then clamped down and eventually cruised over a good/bad and/or bad/good Iowa team. That's what good teams do. Wisconsin is a good team. We're good. Good.


BYU (6-2), Nov. 9

Last week: BYE

Before that: BYU 37, Boise State 20

What happened: Of all the games left on the schedule, this one should give you the biggest willies. The Cougars have won five games straight, Taysom Hill's improvement trajectory should have him averaging 10 touchdown passes a game by bowl season and Kyle Van Noy is a havoc wreaker.

In their last outing, BYU dismantled a Boise State team that isn't all the good this season, but should be given due respect for Chris Petersen reasons. Hill had 408 total yards of offense and four total touchdowns. The Broncos had 499 total yards of offense, but 195 came in the fourth quarter and they turned the ball over four times. The fact that BYU held a 24-3 lead at halftime is probably more telling.

Why you should be afraid: Wisconsin is facing a good non-conference opponent in the midst of its conference season stride. That's not really a problem for the independent team. Also, throw-y mobile quarterbacks have been somewhat problematic for Wisconsin this season.

Why you shouldn't: While BYU's offense is fast improving, it hasn't really faced a defense as good as Wisconsin's appears to be. This game could look like Iowa part deux with Wisconsin moving the ball just well enough late to eke out a comfortable win. Then we can just roll over and take naps.

The worst case is that Wisconsin doesn't take this game seriously. Thankfully, Gary Andersen kind of has a thing about teams from Utah.

Hubris: So depending on your perspective, this game is either an Arizona State-esque argh-fest, or an Iowa-style snoozer. Let's split the difference. Wisconsin wins, 30-27, with a late touchdown then defensive stop.

Indiana (3-5, 1-3), Nov. 16

This week: vs. Illinois

Last week: Minnesota 42, Indiana 39

What happened: We're at the point in the season where spades are spades. Indiana can put up points in a hurry as it did against the Gophers, scoring 28 points on four consecutive touchdowns to take a 39-35 lead late. Their defense can also make bad offenses look fantastic. Minnesota went on a 28-0 run of its own, necessitating the admirable comeback attempt.

After taking back the lead, Indiana gave up a 50-yard touchdown pass to Maxx Williams, who is as big and moose-like as you hope a Minnesota tight end to be. Indiana is a team sent before us to wreak unbelievable chaos before ultimately falling on its face.

Why you should be afraid: You should be TERRIFIED of Indiana's passing attack against Wisconsin's secondary.

Why you shouldn't: At least one running back is going over 200 yards rushing. The over/under on Melvin Gordon's YPC is 10.0.

Hubris: 60-something to 30-something. Seriously, Kevin Wilson, get thee a defense.

@ Minnesota (7-2, 3-2), Nov. 23

This week: vs. Penn State

Last week: Minnesota 42, Indiana 39

What happened: Minnesota came out on the correct end of last week's schizophrenic game against Indiana. Philip Nelson, who hasn't been a game-changer with about a year of experience on his belt, had a career game with 298 yards passing and four touchdowns. This means nothing because he did it against Indiana.

Well, we'll say next-to-nothing. A confidence boost never hurts for a young quarterback. His two prior performances weren't bad, either, though they came against a free-falling Northwestern and a Nebraska defense that isn't super awesome. The running game has been a nice support blanket, and if Wisconsin takes that away I'm confident it can safely defend the pass.

Indiana had a chance to win this game on Minnesota's 9-yard line with 30 seconds to go -- let's not make too much out of this win.

Why you should be afraid: Minnesota is feeling mighty good about itself with three games left, two of which are at home. The Gophers have pluck. Yeah they rank blahblah in s&p BUT SHUT UP PLUCK.

Why you shouldn't: They're probably not very good. Northwestern has tanked and the Indiana win looked just like every other Indiana game this season. Okay, the work the Gophers did on Nebraska's offense was a bit impressive, but Taylor Martinez had just come off injury and Ameer Abdullah still had 165 yards rushing on 19 carries.

The point is they're a lot like Wisconsin without being as good in any single area.

Hubris: I hate being the team that is so clearly not the plucky underdog, so let's call this a close game that Wisconsin wins anyway because pluck isn't a tangible thing.

Penn State (5-3, 2-2), Nov. 30

This week: @ Minnesota

Last week: Penn State 24, Illinois 17 OT

What happened: Penn State needed overtime to beat a team Wisconsin handled rather easily a few weeks ago. The Nittany Lions have the same problem the Badgers have, where they are still waiting for someone to step up and support the superstar wideout. Allen Robinson had 165 yards receiving in the win. The next guy had 19 on one reception.

Bill Belton had 201 yards rushing, which is nice, but still. Incredibly ugly win over Illinois (17 straight Big Ten losses) at home? Eww.

Why you should be afraid: Because this is the last game of the season I guess? Inherent choke factor? I don't know.

Why you shouldn't: Penn State is an unimpressive team. At the beginning of the year, I wondered whether Christian Hackenberg would be playing at an all-world level by this point and if other options would emerge alongside Robinson. He isn't and they haven't. The spade is a spade.

Hubris: Penn State will be in the way of a BCS berth, and Wisconsin will show its respect with a close three quarters before opening a 20-point lead in the fourth.


UMass (1-8, 1-4)

UMass is scoring points at least! After hanging a season-high 30 points in a 31-30 loss to Western Michigan, the Minutemen scored 19 against Northern Illinois, which was their second-highest total of the season. They also gave up 63 points.

Tennessee Tech (3-7, 0-6)

The Golden Eagles are now 1-13 in their last 14 games against Ohio Valley Conference foes. Nicht gut. They are on track for another three-win season.

Arizona State (6-2, 4-1)

Good on Arizona State for keeping Wisconsin's strength of schedule aloft. The Sun Devils have scored 50-plus in three straight games, and are in the driver's seat in the Pac-12 South division. They have Utah, Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona to close the season.

Purdue (1-7, 0-4)

Shut out two straight weeks. Iowa has the potential make it three straight. The Big Ten is a stinky conference and Purdue is its torch bearer.

Ohio State (9-0, 5-0)

Who cares.

Northwesten (4-5, 0-5)

For god's sake.

Illinois (3-5, 0-4)

Northwestern, just a week behind, pretty much.