Russell Wilson leads a very powerful Wisconsin offense that will challenge the Oregon St. defense Saturday morning. (AP Photo by Andy Manis)
Oregon St. fans may not be too familiar with what Wisconsin brings to the table Saturday morning when the Beavers pay the Badgers a visit at Camp Randall, the first of a home and home series that concludes next season. So Buildingthedam.com got our brother blog Buckys5thquarter.com to fill us in on a number of details. And here's our answers to their questions.
The Badgers looked great on offense against UNLV, but the Rebels offense had some success against the Wisconsin defense. They were balanced, and they had a sizable 8:40 edge in time of possession. If they hadn't had a couple of untimely drops and missed field goals, they would have at least been in the game a lot longer. At the same time, Oregon St. freshman Malcolm Agnew ran for an NCAA high in rushing yards on week one. What should we expect to see different in week 2 from the Badger defense?
While Wisconsin won't exactly face a juggernaut in Northern Illinois next week, is there any chance that the Badgers overlook Oregon St. a little bit after their embarrassing loss last week? Does Wisconsin have a history of overlooking teams?
Well, the biggest difference is that the Badger defense should be prepared. The UNLV coaching staff unveiled a new pistol formation that all of the Wisconsin coaches and players said they hadn't seen anywhere on film. When I watched the game over, it couldn't have been more obvious that the players were going up against an offense they were completely unprepared for.
Also, UNLV's first touchdown was set up by a horrible pass interference call in the end zone and the second touchdown was against the reserves. All-in-all, I don't think the defensive performance against UNLV was that bad. In fact, considering they were basically playing blind, there were a lot of encouraging signs. You can also throw out the time of possession stat. Wisconsin would have loved to hold onto the ball longer, but they were scoring too fast.
Another difference is that I think you'll see the Badger defense play a little more aggressively this week. The new co-defensive coordinators have been preaching a more aggressive defense, but all we saw last week was the same thing we saw in the past. I don't think they wanted to put too much on film. They might see if they can avoid showing too much against the Beavers as well, but if they have some offensive success early, I think you'll see more blitzes and a lot of press coverage.
The Badgers have a very minimal history of overlooking opponents under Bret Bielema. When he took over six years ago, he installed a "1-0" mentality that has basically become the program's motto. There have been scares here and there -- and you could argue the Badgers overlooked the entire 2008 season -- but I don't think you can look at any loss in the Bielema Era and say it was because the team was overlooking their opponent. The losses have usually come because they lost to a better team or because they beat themselves, but never because they didn't bring 100 percent effort.
One of the key issues for Wisconsin this year was how well Russell Wilson, as an outsider transferring in, would fit in with the team. It looks like things went really well, though turning in a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week performance makes it easier for everyone to be happy. Did things go as smoothly as it appears? If so, did Wilson, or coach Bret Bielema, do anything that really helped facilitate things?
This entire process really couldn't have gone any smoother and it starts with Russell, who is just an absolutely great person and a tremendous leader. He studied his ass off to learn the offense and he obviously has a good grasp on it. More importantly, he has earned the respect of his teammates who voted him a captain before he ever took a snap as a Badger. Bielema didn't change anything. He just recruited a guy who fits perfectly in the Wisconsin program.
Will coach Bielema stick with the rotation of Montee Ball and James White being a close to equal as possible, or will we gravitate to one over the other for the sake of consistency?
Some like to argue that you need to declare starters at every position for the sake of consistency, but I think running back is the exception -- especially when you have two as good as Ball and White. Running backs take such a beating that it makes a lot of sense to keep rotating them to keep them fresh.
I think you'll see Ball get the first series again and they two will rotate series throughout the game. Whoever gets the most carries will be the one that keeps his team on the field the longest. They call it a "healthy competition". I don't think it's a competition as much as it is simply the Wisconsin offense.
Does coach Bielema believe in not using the whole playbook if not necessary in the early part of the season, in order to not show too much to future opponents? Or should Oregon St. fans expect to see everything Saturday morning that they might see if they tune in another Wisconsin game later in the season?
Bielema has a lot of faith in his coordinators so this is really up to them, but as I mentioned earlier with the defense, they will hold back a lot unless they really need to use it. Bielema and his coaching staff also aren't afraid to install things week-to-week depending on who they play. I'm sure there are a couple plays/packages they have designed specifically for Oregon State.
Last year, Arizona St. went into Madison and give Wisconsin a great game, only to lose on a missed extra point late in the game. What did Arizona St. do to stick with the Badgers, and is there any chance the Beavers can copy the formula?
The Sun Devils definitely had a good defensive game plan, but they also benefited from the Badgers still working out their offensive rotation. As the season went on, the running back rotation was tweaked and the offensive line got nasty. They certainly hadn't hit their stride when they played Arizona State.
The Sun Devils also benefited from 261 return yards, including a touchdown. I really don't think you can compare the two games as the Wisconsin offense is a lot better, and I'm not sure you'll ever see the Badgers' special teams unit play that poorly.
A lot of Big 12 teams have been reluctant to play Pac-12 or other teams from the west, especially if it means a home and home arrangement where they have to come visit, but Wisconsin has been a welcome exception. The Badgers have had series with UNLV, Fresno St., and Hawaii, and now Oregon St., where you are willing to come out here. Why is Wisconsin more receptive to traveling west?
They also have future trips to Arizona State, Washington and Washington State planned. I think it's because Bret Bielema and Barry Alvarez aren't really worried about jet-lag or things like that. They don't really view those as excuses. Also, Wisconsin's fan base always travels well so I think they use that as a negotiating tool when they write out these contracts.
Finally -- and this is probably the biggest reason -- I think the Badgers see a lot of quality opponents out west that they also view as very beatable. With that said, they have yet to play a non-conference road game at a BCS school under Bret Bielema so we'll see how they feel about it after they start traveling to some of these Pac-12 destinations in the coming years.
The 11 AM start, which is 9 AM body clock time for Oregon St., we understand is for the ESPN time slot. Is this something Wisconsin does very often, or will the early hour of the game be a shock to the system for the Badgers as well?
No, 11 a.m. games are the norm in the Midwest. In fact, the coaches and players love them because they don't have to sit around all day to play and they can spend their night watching other games. I can certainly see how it will be different for the Oregon State players and fans back in Oregon.
Badger fans are well known for their loyalty, but are many of them equally devoted Green Bay Packers fans too? Or are the two groups really pretty separate bunches of fans?
The majority of them are also devoted Packers fans, but Wisconsin certainly has a number of students/alums from Minnesota, Chicago and surprisingly, both coasts. So not all of them are Packers fans.
Will Oregon St. fans making the trip encounter anyone who remembers the Beavers' last visit 50 years ago?
I'm sure there are a few. There are plenty of older Badgers fans who have been season ticket holders forever.
Wisconsin is legendary for their tailgating. What parking lot delicacy should visiting Beavers be sure to sample over all others?
It's all about the brats in Wisconsin. Add some brown mustard and some sauerkraut and you are good to go.