Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Thoughts: Badgers' Borland Ready for Heartland Trophy Battle

 

For the second consecutive day the Wisconsin Badgers football team was without their biggest defensive cog as Chris Borland’s ailing right hamstring sidelined him at practice, Wednesday.

The 2013 Butkus Award semifinalist got a boast from his coach at Wednesday’s press conference saying it was more for precautionary measures. He plans on making his 45th career start this weekend in a battle that should focus on the ground game, time of possession and turnovers.

Should Borland not be able to go this weekend, Junior linebacker Marcus Trotter will get the call. Trotter (6-0, 233 pounds) is known for his ability to stop the run, and set career highs in tackles (9) and tackles for losses (0.5) in the Badgers win over Illinois two weeks back.

With or without the Badgers captain on defense, it’s likely Ethan Armstrong will step into the rover position on obvious passing downs. It seems mobility will be the biggest question in everyone’s mind come Saturday when assessing how well Borland will be able to help defensively.

Cover Two

Most people recognized Tanner McEvoy getting work in the defensive secondary at Illinois. He’ll stick in the rotation again this week as defensive coordinator Dave Aranda continues to try and find ways to get the best athletes on the field.

Michael Trotter, the twin brother of Marcus, will also likely make his return to the field this weekend as he continues his comeback from an ankle injury sustained in the early season win over UMass.

3-And-Out

Both Wisconsin and Iowa have been serviceable, offensively, on third downs this year. Wisconsin converting on 48-percent of their third down tries while Iowa is just above them at 49-percent. The Hawkeyes, in Wisconsin’s defense, have also faced nearly 30 more third down situations so far this season.

Special Teams

If there is a clear area where you have to give Iowa the heads-up in this battle, it comes on special teams – specifically in the punt return game where they are averaging just more than 20 yards per return in comparison to Wisconsin’s nine. Should this become a ground-and-pound type game, look for the field position gained through the return battle to speak volumes afterward.

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Tags: Badgers Borland Football Hawkeyes Iowa

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